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French Minister for Families, Children and Women's Rights Laurence Rossignol delivers a speech during the launching of the High Council for Equality between Women and Men on International Women's Day at the Élysée Palace in Paris on March 8, 2016

France’s Minister for Women’s Rights has found herself in hot water after comparing Muslim women who wear their faith’s traditional garments to “American negroes” who supported slavery.

Laurence Rossignol, the government minister, made the remark during a French television interview on Wednesday. She was condemning retailers like H&M and Dolce & Gabbana for their decision to sell product lines designed for Muslim women, saying these firms were “promoting the confinement of women’s bodies,” France 24 reported.

The interviewer noted that some Muslim women in fact choose to wear articles of clothing like burqas and hijabs.

“Of course there are women who choose it,” Rossignol replied. “There were American negroes who were in favor of slavery.”

Rossignol has since expressed remorse for her choice of words, calling it an “error of language” and insisting that she would only use the word negro in the context of slavery, but otherwise she is standing by her observation. She is now the target of a social-media backlash. As of early Thursday morning, a petition demanding that Rossignol face “sanctions” for her language had received more than 15,800 signatures.

[France 24]

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