Sunday, 26 May 2019
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The National Assembly largely votes against the ban on spanking

AFP

LONDON: Towards the end of spanking or slapping for children? The National Assembly adopted in the night of Thursday to Friday, a bill of largely symbolic scope aimed at prohibiting the “ordinary educational violence”, on which the opponents made themselves discreet.

The text of the MoDem, co-signed by elected representatives of other groups, was adopted at first reading by 51 votes to 1 and three abstentions. He has relaunched an ongoing controversy on the sensitive subject of corporal punishment in France, where the proverb “who likes to chastise well” still has his supporters.

According to the Fondation pour l’Enfance, 85% of French parents resort to so-called educational violence. The MoDem proposal asks the government for a “state of affairs” on the subject before September 2019.

Health Minister Agnès Buzyn has given strong support to the text, arguing in particular that “we do not educate by fear” and that this “allegedly educational” violence has “disastrous consequences for the development of the child” .

The text is not “exclusively symbolic” because it will “break with the sometimes flexible appreciation of jurisprudence” of a “right of correction”, she said.

The proposal does not provide for new criminal sanctions because they already exist, and has a “pedagogical aim”, according to the confession of the centrist rapporteur Maud Petit. It is “to affirm a choice of society”, added Alice Thourot (LREM).

The proposal intends to include in the Civil Code, the article read at weddings, a formula review session to be “more concise” that “parental authority is exercised without physical or psychological violence” . The initial version cited “physical, verbal or psychological violence, corporal punishment or humiliation”.

The formal ban, if enacted at the end of the legislative process, would allow France to comply with international treaties, while the country has been repeatedly pinned by international bodies.

France would thus become the 55th state to ban corporal punishment, according to the “Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children”, a London-based NGO. Sweden had legislated on the subject since 1979.

Symbol and communication

The measure had already been included in the law “Equality and citizenship”, but had been censored in January 2017 on the grounds that it was not related to the law (“legislative rider”).

The text MoDem had the support of various organizations (Foundation for Childhood, Association STOP VEO …) or the Defender of Rights, Jacques Toubon who defended “a strong political signal”.

But during the debates in committee, right-wing and right-wing politicians took up the fight against an “interference” in the lives of families and the “ineptitude” or even the “ridicule” of the proposal.

In the hemicycle, the debates were more polite. Only representative of his group, Raphael Schellenberger (LR), abstained, wondering what “will think the French” time spent on this text. He leaves “of a good intention” but is “only symbol and communication”, with a device that “states without framing”, he judged.

On the offensive, Emmanuelle Ménard (far right), only to vote against, pointed a risk of “strip parents of their prerogatives” and a text that “is to take the French for fools”.

While the leader of the UDI-Agir Jean-Christophe Lagarde had mocked beforehand a text “empty of effect” but which will be “very medically felt”, his colleague Thierry Benoit initially circumspect, finally rallied to the proposal, the Libertés et Territoires group being shared.

The three groups on the left have supported a text, which tends to a society “more humanistic” for Elsa Faucillon (PCF) and is of “public utility” according to Bastien Lachaud (LFI).

The relative consensus around the proposal almost stumbled because of the deposit in extremis by the government of an amendment to enable it to regroup by order the public interest grouping “Enfance en danger” and the French Agency of the adoption. Faced with the refusal of what Mr. Schellenberger described as “ordinary administrative violence”, the Minister withdrew her amendment.

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