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France ruled in breach of rights treaty on smacking children

The Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg
The Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg Conseil de l'Europe/Ellen Wuibaux

The Council of Europe has ruled that France is in violation of a European rights treaty because it has not completely banned the smacking of children. The Strasbourg-based body says France’s law on corporal punishment of minors is not "sufficiently clear, binding and precise".

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France bans violence against children but does allow parents the "right to discipline" them.

French law forbids corporal punishment in schools or disciplinary establishments for children.

Of the 47 countries belonging to the Council of Europe, 27 have banned smacking - among them Germany, the Netherlands and Spain - as have 17 other countries outside Europe.

Other European countries, including Britain, have similar laws to France or no specific legislation on the question.

The Council of Europe was ruling on a complaint lodged by British-based child protection charity Approach, which says that French law violates the European Social Charter, which was first adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996.

In May France’s Green party tabled an amendment to a law on the family but it was eventually withdrawn.

Families Minister Laurence Rossignol has called for a “collective debate” on the "the usefulness of corporal punishment in the education of children" but said that it should not give rise to further legislation.

There was controversy in 2013 when a father was fined 500 euros for smacking his nine-year-old son.

This is the third such ruling from the Council of Europe but the first arising from a complaint by an NGO.

Approach has also lodged complaints against Ireland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Italy and the council is expected to decide on those cases at the end of May.

The Council of Europe cannot fine countries that infringe its rulings but member states are supposed to abide by them.
 

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