Equal Protection from Violence in France

Date: 10th January 2017
Category: Equal protection from violence

The French parliament has passed the Equality and Citizenship bill which promotes the ending of violence against children including corporal punishment.

On Thursday, 22 December, a final vote was taken on Article 68 of the "Egalité et Citoyenneté" (Equality and Citizenship) bill, which states that the exercise of parental authority must exclude "any cruel, degrading or humiliating treatment, including corporal punishment".

"The adoption of this new legislation marks a very important commitment towards the protection from violence of more than 14 million children living in France. Ending cruel, degrading or humiliating treatment is an indispensable component of a comprehensive national strategy for the prevention and elimination of violence against children. It lays the foundation for a culture of respect for children's rights; safeguards children's dignity and physical integrity; and encourages positive discipline and education of children through non-violent means." said SRSG Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.

The adopted text aims to support parents and caregivers in their child rearing responsibilities to raise children with appropriate care, support and without violence.

While some campaigners and experts have welcomed the move, it remains to be seen whether the final wording of the law will prevent parents from physically punishing their children, as the law refers to "corporal violence", rather than all forms of corporal punishment. Furthermore, given that violence against children is already an offence under the French penal code, and judges in the country have been notoriously hesitant to treat corporal punishment as a form of violence against children, the amendment may have little or no effect on the legality of corporal punishment. The entry into force of the law has also been delayed by a constitutional challenge to unrelated provisions in the law.

In Scotland, there have been repeated calls from Together and many others to end corporal punishment and the defence of 'justifiable assault', with no movement from Scottish Government on this issue. Read about it in Together's 2016 State of Children's Rights report.