Overturning Napoleon-era rights, France bans smacking kids

PARIS (Reuters) - Members of the French parliament voted in favor of a ban on parents smacking their children, falling into line with the majority of European Union member states, although there will be no punishment for breaking the law.

The civil code will be updated to state that parental authority must be exercised without violence and that parents may not resort to “physical, verbal or psychological violence, nor to corporal punishment or humiliation”.

The ban was approved in a thinly attended National Assembly session in the early hours of Friday, with 51 votes in favor, one against and three abstentions.

It reverses parental rights to discipline children using corporal punishment granted under Napoleon in the early 1800s.

“Education through violence can only create more violence in society. It also leads to failure at school, illness, suicide, anti-social behavior and delinquence,” said Maud Petit of the centrist MoDem party, a partner in parliament with French President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

The ban was proposed by France’s gender equality minister, Marlene Schiappa, who told Le Parisien newspaper that parents are wrong to believe that shouting, slapping or twisting children’s ears are appropriate ways to assert authority.

“No violence is educational,” she said.

French First Lady Brigitte Macron also supported the ban, but a few conservative and far-right MPs have condemned it as an interference in families’ private lives.

As part of the vote, the government will prepare a report about parental violence and propose measures to educate parents.

Following the example of Sweden in 1966, some 54 countries - including 22 of the EU’s 28 member countries - have introduced similar laws banning corporal punishment in the home, according to French data.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Luke Baker and Peter Graff