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Dati sparks maternity leave debate

Plans to give French female ministers four months maternity leave have been outlined.
A proposal to give French female government ministers four months maternity leave is currently being considered after justice minister Rachida Dati sparked a row when she returned to work just five days after giving birth.

Ms Dati (43) gave birth to a baby daughter, Zohra, a week last Friday and she turned up for the first cabinet meeting of the New Year the following Wednesday.

A number of women's groups expressed concern at Ms Dati's behaviour, claiming that her actions undermined women's right to maternity leave and saying that she might have put pressure on other working mothers to return to their jobs without having taken time to rest.

But former presidential candidate, Segolene Royal, has spoken out in defence of Ms Dati, saying that she was put under "extremely violent pressure" to return to work in front-line politics or risk losing her job.

She told the Journal du Dimanche: "To be on your feet five days after a caesarean birth is too soon, no doubt. But if you have an exceptional job, you sometimes have to act in an exceptional way.

"Let's leave Rachida Dati alone. This fury unleashed on her is indecent and unfair."

Now higher education minister Valerie Pecresse has suggested passing an "institutional reform" which would make it the norm for ministers who have just given birth to be replaced by a deputy for a four-month period so that they would not feel pressured to return to work.

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