French women politicians have come to Justice Minister Rachida Dati's defence following comments that her decision to take only five days' maternity leave was irresponsible.
Dati was slammed by women's groups who were worried that her disregarding the fact that French mothers were entitled to 16 weeks' paid leave after the birth of a child, and deciding on rushing back after her daughter Zohra's birth caesarean section, would put pressure on others to do the same.
The move has also been unpopular among the French public, with a poll in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showing that 56 per cent thought that she had returned too early.
However, Dati has got the support of women politicians in the country.
"Let's leave Rachida Dati alone. This fury against her is indecent and unfair," the Scotsman quoted leading opposition politician Segolene Royal, a former Socialist presidential candidate, as saying.
Higher Education Minister Valerie Pecresse also told the paper how she also returned to work swiftly after her child was born.
"Ten days after giving birth, I presided over several important ceremonies. It didn't stop me resting afterwards," she said.
However, Dati's refusal to take maternity leave has been branded "scandalous" by women's groups in France.
Maya Sturduts, of the National Collective for the Rights of Women, said: "Employers can now use this to put pressure on women, especially during the current tough economic times when employers may be looking for excuses to cut staff."
Florence Montreynaud, a women's rights activist, said: "I am shocked by Miss Dati's decision to go back to work so quickly. Women need to rest after giving birth. Her behaviour is like that of working women in the 1920s, who gave birth on the factory floor."
French newspapers suggest that Dati, a 43-year-old divorcee, had felt forced to return to work last Wednesday ahead of an expected major judicial reform from President Nicolas Sarkozy on the same day.
Laurence Parisot, president of the employers' group, Medef, said: "Preventing women from choosing the solution which suits them is to deny them an essential right. It is not surprising there are so few women on company boards and executives."
Dati has vowed never to reveal the identity of the father.