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Husbands Face 3 Years Prison with New France Verbal Insults Law

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by copythat

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In The News

Husbands can now be jailed for insulting wives under a new French law—couples, who insult each other’s physical appearance or make false accusations about infidelity, face prison time under a new French law that makes "psychological violence" a criminal offense.

The French law--first of its kind--means that partners who make such insults or threats of physical violence could face up to three years of a sentence in French prison--plus a €75,000 fine (approximately US $94,822 fine.

November 2009, Prime Minister François Fillon called the French draft of the law "a national cause" and said it would allow the [legal] authorities to deal with "the most insidious situations, which don't leave a mark to the naked eye but can mutilate the victim's inner self."

The French bill--unanimously approved by French MPs--defines mental violence as "repeated acts that could be constituted by words," including insults or repeated text messages that "degrade one's quality of life and cause a change to one's mental or physical state."

French judges debate whether the new law is even "inapplicable", arguing the definition of what constitutes an insult is too vague and that verbal abuse too hard to prove in a court of law.

Junior family minister Nadine Morano told the National Assembly that "we have introduced an important measure [French law] here, which recognizes psychological violence, because it isn't just blows [that hurt], but also words." Morano says the primary abuse help line for French women received 90,000 calls last year—up to 84 per cent of those incoming calls were related to psychological violence.
Doctors' certificates charting a patient's descent into nervous depression, as a result of such insults, could be used as evidence in court. "The judge could take into consideration letters, SMSs or repetitive messages, because one knows that psychological violence is made up of insults," says Morano.

In the strangest twist: the French law will experiment with electronic ankle bracelets to keep psychological or physical abusers at bay.

French judges say they are "deeply skeptical" about the new law. "How can you define what is 'a reiterated insult'?," said Virgine Duval, national secretary USM, France's biggest magistrates' union.

The law was built to be based on battling moral or sexual harassment in France’s workplaces-- the key difference with the new law is that, in a domestic dispute, there are usually only family members present—who can’t be counted as objective. In the workplace, witnesses include surrounding work colleagues.

Now French men now also have the right to report their spouse’s verbal abuse involved in a domestic argument. In fact the law will apply to both married couples and to cohabiting partners. "Men who [physically] beat their wives can exploit the new law by saying: 'Yes but I was the victim of psychological violence'," she said.

It’s also argued that French courts could additionally be "clogged"-–through couples using the new law in courts, in order to obtain the upper hand in acrimonious divorces, it’s been added. Women who complain that their husband insulted them can now have a judge ban the husband from approaching his wife or their children, with just a simple declaration.


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