French court says marital sex 'duty', wife puts case to ECHR

An appeals court said the woman’s decision not to have sex with her husband constituted a violation of the obligations of marriage, making her solely responsible for their divorce

18 March 2021
By Joanna York

A woman has lodged a legal appeal with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after French courts ruled that she had “violated” her “marital duties” by not having sex with her husband.

In 2019, an appeals court in Versailles found the woman, 66, to be solely at fault in her divorce from her husband.

Its main grounds for this was the fact of her not having sex, as reported by her husband, which the court said constituted “a serious and repeated violation of the obligations of marriage, making the maintenance of a shared life intolerable” for him.

The ruling was approved by the Cour de cassation – one of four courts of last appeal in France, with jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters.

On March 17, two associations representing the woman said that she has now appealed to the ECHR to overturn the French ruling on the grounds of intrusion into her private life and violation of her physical integrity.

Marriage not ‘sexual servitude’

The two associations representing the woman are la Fondation des femmes and le Collectif féministe contre le viol

In a joint statement, they said the “archaic” ruling “denied women the right to consent or not to sexual relations” in marriage.

They said: “47% of the 94,000 rapes and attempted rapes per year [in France] are perpetrated by the spouse or ex-spouse of the victim.

“Marriage should not mean sexual servitude.”

The woman, who lodged her appeal with the ECHR on March 5, has remained anonymous. 

She described the French ruling as a miscarriage of justice, adding: “It’s a sentence from another era. 

“I’m outraged.” 

Related stories

Paris mairie fined for appointing too many women to top jobs

France plans new laws to protect minors against sex offence

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
Brexit and Beyond for Britons in France*
Featured Help Guide
What the Brexit deal means for UK residents of France, second homeowners and visitors in 2021 and after
Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now