France will resist ban on smacking children despite pressure

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The French government has said it will not introduce an outright ban on smacking kids, despite the fact that it’s about to be condemned by the Council of Europe, the EU’s top human rights body.

On Wednesday, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg is due to condemn France’s vague laws regarding corporal punishment for children. It’s expected to rule that French law on the issue is not “sufficiently clear, binding or precise,” Le Monde reported.

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The Strasbourg court was forced to take action after a complaint lodged by the British charity Approach, which said that French law violates the European Social Charter, a treaty adopted by the Council of Europe in 1961.

"France has voluntarily signed up to this social charter and made a binding legal commitment to stick to its provisions. If there is a violation found, France has an obligation to put it right, and the European Committee of Social Rights will follow up to make sure steps are taken in the right direction," Andrew Cutting, a spokesperson for the council, told the Local.

Europe’s top human rights court wants the smacking of children banned right across the continent. It says that spanking kids is “ineffective, conveys the wrong message, and can cause serious physical and mental harm” and is a “violation of their human rights.”

Their campaign, called ‘Raise your Hand Against Smacking’ aims to ban it in all 47 member states. So far, 22 have an outright ban with six committed to follow.

But the French government looks like they will try and stall the issue.

There were several attempts last year by ministers and activists in France to get a change in the law. In May, a smacking ban was postponed indefinitely after lawmakers refused to debate the bill.

“The politicians lack courage. They are scared of the protests if they change the law,” Olivier Maurel, founder of the anti-corporal punishment organization Oveo, told the Local.

France does ban violence towards children, but also gives parents the “right to discipline” them.

Laurence Rossignol, France’s family minister has said she doesn’t think legislation on the matter is necessary.

"We don't need a law, but we do need to collectively consider the usefulness of corporal punishment in bringing up children. The evolution of a society and its social developments are not suddenly brought about by a change in law,” she told AFP.

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But previously she has said that“children are the only living beings that can be hit, but where nobody will intervene.”She also said that she is in favor of the“promotion of violence-free education”and that it’s important to“make parents aware that corporal punishment is not trivial.”

But there could be more cynical reasons for her mixed messages on the subject of smacking children, as the government is wary of stirring up public opinion by a controversial change in family law.

“I do not want to cut the country in two camps, those who are in favor for spanking and those who are against,” she said.

An expert on children and punishment, Gilles Lazimi from the Foundation for Childhood, said that over half French parents and grandparents admit to smacking children under the age of two, while 85 percent said they had smacked children in their care.

"The French government is acting in the interests of the adults and not of the children. It's scandalous,” he told the Local.