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France braces for European judgement on child smacking

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Despite calls to reform its policy on child punishments, smacking is not banned in France. Coll-Devaney/SUPERSTOCK/SIPA

France is preparing for criticism from the Council of Europe human rights body on Wednesday after media reported it would be condemned for failing to clearly ban the smacking of children.


French newspaper Le Monde wrote Monday the Council will say French law is not "sufficiently clear, binding and precise" on the matter. The Council made no comment on the report.

France bans violence towards children but allows parents the vaguely defined "right to discipline" them.

French Family Minister Laurence Rossignol said she did not believe legislation to stop parents from physically punishing their children was required.

"We don't need a law", Rossignol told AFP agency. "We do need to collectively consider the usefulness of corporal punishment in bringing up children."

MPs from parties across the political spectrum have unsuccessfully tried to introduce smacking bans, but no government has supported a ban.

Multiple polls have shown a majority of the French public to be opposed to bans on smacking.

"Child abuse is unacceptable, but the problem is not the smacking itself. It's the ban on every little act of violence you might use to discipline your child," Thierry Vidor, president of Families of France, said during a televised debate.

"The law should not meddle in how parents educate their children."

But others felt the lack of a ban reflects a lack of progress on social issues.

"France is lagging behind, and it's shameful," Gilles Lazimi, a doctor and campaigner against educative violence, said in the same televised debate.

"This is not about putting parents in prison, but about helping them."

The Council of Europe judgement follows a complaint lodged by British child protection charity Approach, which argues French law violates part of the Council's European Social Charter.

Unlike its legal body, the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe does not have the authority to issue legally binding sanctions on members, but it can pressure its member contries to confirm to the Charter.

Smacking children is banned in 27 of the 47 Council of Europe member states.