France ‘must be tough on smacking’

The Council of Europe has criticised France

The country is being criticised by the Council of Europe for not having an outright ban

FRANCE is being criticised by a European human rights body for not having a ban on smacking children.

The Council of Europe, which monitors application of a rights charter by 47 member states, is expected to say tomorrow that France does not have sufficiently “clear, obligatory and precise rules banning corporal punishment,” reports Le Monde in an article that the council retweeted.

Because of this, the ruling will say, the country is violating article 17 of the European Charter on Human Rights, which says states must “protect children and adolescents against negligence, violence and exploitation”.

The condemnation comes after a small British charity, Approach, which seeks to end smacking all over the world, complained about France as well as about six other countries that do not have an outright ban. Approach (Association for the Protection of All Children) did not include Britain, which allows ‘reasonable chastisement’ though this must not cause visible bruising or swelling.

French law in theory bans violence generally and the victim being a child is an aggravating factor, however it has no clear ban on parents smacking and allows them to ‘discipline’ their child. It does, however, ban corporal punishment at school.

The council’s ruling is not binding, but it puts pressure on France to change its laws. It could also lead to action in the European Court of Human Rights, to which the council is linked.

A doctor and children’s rights campaigner, Gilles Lazimi of Fondation pour l’enfance, said “legal action will be taken”.

The sanction has raised again the issue of smacking in France, which is condemned by most medical experts as unhelpful and likely to ‘teach children violence’, but widely supported by the general public, many of whom were smacked as children. About 80% are opposed to a ban, the latest surveys show.

In the rest of Europe, 27 countries have complete bans, starting with Sweden in 1979.

An amendment to a French family law last year, which would have created a ban, was removed, though the government said at the time the idea would be reconsidered again in a future law.

Following Approach’s complaints, in 2013, the charity dropped its complaint against one country, those against two others were rejected by the council and it is still considering a further three.

Photo: High Contrast (the Palace of Europe, in Strasbourg, where the Council of Europe is based

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