France: Parliament Criminalizes Psychological Violence
Tuesday, July 6, 2010 3:10 PM

The French Parliament has approved a law that will criminalize psychological violence. The Parliament unanimously approved this measure as part of a larger bill addressing survivors of physical and domestic violence. The legislation defines mental violence as “repeated acts that … degrade one’s quality of life and cause a change to one’s mental or physical state.”
Danielle Bousquet, a Socialist, and Guy Geoffroy, a member of the Union for a Popular Movement, introduced the legislation. Experts have attributed the bill’s success to strong bipartisan and government support. Prime Minister François Fillon encouraged the Parliament to adopt the legislation as a national cause. Fillon articulated the importance of the legislation in prosecuting “the most insidious situations, which don’t leave a mark to the naked eye but can mutilate the victim’s inner self.”
While the drafters of the bill were principally concerned about violence being committed against women, the language in the bill allows both men and women to be prosecuted. Perpetrators of psychological violence could be incarcerated for up to three years or be forced to pay a fine of 75,000 euros ($90,000). The bill also permits the use of electronic ankle bracelets to keep survivors of violence away from their perpetrators.
Opponents of the measure claim the law is too vague and may be difficult to prosecute. Members of the French police force and judges have noted that the level of investigation and prosecution of such psychological violence claims will determine the success of this new legislation.
The Secretary of State for the family, Nadine Morano, explains the measure’s importance. “We have introduced an important measure here, which recognizes psychological violence, because it isn’t just blows, but also words.” A principal abuse help line in France receives approximately 90,000 calls annually; 84% are claims of psychological violence.