Minister in France's new government accused of rape by 2 women

Mr Damien Abad said he did not have the ability to rape his accusers due to a medical condition. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (New York Times) - Rape accusations against a newly appointed minister disrupted the start of President Emmanuel Macron's second term on Monday (May 23), with the allegations coming amid a growing reckoning over sexism and sexual abuse by French political figures.

Two women have accused Mr Damien Abad, the minister for solidarity and for disabled people, of raping them in 2010 and 2011, according to Mediapart, a French investigative news outlet that published a lengthy article about the accusations last week, without naming either accuser.

Mr Abad, 42, has denied the allegations. The Times has not been able to independently verify the Mediapart report.

"I have never raped a woman in my life," Mr Abad told reporters from the Ain Department of France, where he is running for reelection in parliamentary elections in June. "Should an innocent man resign? I don't think so."

Mr Abad, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that limits his ability to move his joints, said in a statement that the acts he was accused of were implausible because he did not have the physical ability to perform them and that he could not have sex without a partner's "full and complete consent".

According to Mediapart, one of the women said that after a consensual encounter, he refused to stop when asked, while the other said she blacked out after having drinks with him and awoke in a hotel room, her body sore.

The government said it had not been aware of the allegations before the Mediapart article, even though an advocacy group said it had flagged one of the women's experiences to the two political parties involved. Both political parties told Mediapart that they had not seen the emailed letter.

The accusations overshadowed the first meeting of France's freshly appointed Cabinet, raising questions over whether it had ignored warnings about Mr Abad and drawing attention away from its efforts to address soaring inflation just weeks before elections that will determine control of Parliament.

Ms Olivia Grégoire, the government's new spokesperson, faced a barrage of questions over Mr Abad at her first post-Cabinet news conference. She said Ms Élisabeth Borne, Macron's new prime minister, had discussed the accusations with Mr Abad over the weekend.

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