France has passed new legislation banning corporal punishment, which includes spanking. But feelings about the new bill are mixed, even with scientific backing.
Child abuse was, as in most first-world-nations, illegal in France, but often, corporal punishment (or ‘spanking’) has always walked a fine line when it comes to where it falls–whether it’s discipline or abuse.
That’s not the case any longer in France. On December 22, 2016, the new ‘Equality and Citizenship’ bill passed, and now cruel, degrading and/or humiliating treatment of children by their parents is forbidden. Spanking a child will not be a criminal offense, but a civil one, and will fall under civil law punishments if parents are found to offend.
A poll in 2009 showed that nearly 70% of French parents claimed to spank their children and over 80% were against the ban on corporal punishment. Science, however, may not be on the side of these parents, though, as a study in 2016 published by the Journal of Family Psychology, with research results spanning five decades, showed that children who were spanked were actually more likely to be disobedient, antisocial and defiant, as well as have mental health and cognitive difficulties.
A United Nations expert on children’s issues, Marta Santos Pais, says the new bill goes a long way in laying the foundation for respect for children’s rights and protects their dignity and physical integrity. Pais believes the bill will encourage positive discipline techniques and education.
Related: Alternatives to Spanking
France follows most of Europe in banning spanking, though the U.K., Italy, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic, as well as the United States, still allow spanking. A recent report shows that the use of spanking as discipline in America has decreased since 1988, though. Sweden was the first country to ban spanking decades ago in 1979, and still claims positive results in citizenship for doing so.