Why France needs a total ban on smacking kids

As a provocative new anti-smacking video campaign by the Fondation pour l'Enfance (Foundation for Childhood) causes a stir in France, the man behind the drive Dr. Gilles Lazimi tells The Local why France needs a law banning parents from smacking their kids.

Why France needs a total ban on smacking kids
Photo: Screengrab/Youtube/Fondation pour l'Enfance

Since the Council of Europe's 1998 ruling that European countries should ban all forms of smacking of children by parents, only a few nations have failed to implement such a law.

One of them is France, despite efforts over the last 14 years to bring legislation in line with the rest of the continent.

This week, however, the French charity Foundation for Childhood, in collaboration with Dr. Gilles Lazimi, launched a video campaign (see below) which has already shocked French viewers and sparked debate over the question of discipline, children's rights, and parental authority in France.

Lazimi joined The Local to explain why the time has come for France to introduce a total ban on smacking.

'There's no such thing as a little smack.'

Dr Gilles Lazimi: "The aim of this campaign is to make every parent in France stop and think about this act, which is claimed to be instructive and help children to learn lessons, but in reality is unproductive and useless.

"To us, it’s ethically unthinkable that a parent should strike their child, and we are calling for a law in France banning any sort of corporal punishment.

"This is already the case in 32 countries around the world, and 21 in Europe, including Spain, Germany and Portugal, for example.

"According to a study done in 2007 by the Union of European Families, 85 percent of French parents and grandparents admit to having smacked a child in their care.

"With this campaign, we want to make everyone aware that slapping children is not a solution to any problem, and can do serious damage to them.

"There is no such thing as a little smack.

Drug abuse, addiction and alcoholism

"Even worse, half of French parents and grandparents have been found to slap infants under the age of two.

"At such a young age, the child can’t possible understand why they are being hit. They can’t process it, and they certainly can’t learn from it.

"Hitting an infant that young can cause significant damage to their facial tissue, their eyesight, and their brain functions.

"Even at an older age, repeatedly hitting a child can harm their cognitive abilities, their school work, and can also have an impact on their friendships and relationships.

"Later on in life, an adult who was hit as a child is more likely to fall into drug abuse, addiction and alcoholism.

"Furthermore, they often learn from their parents that hitting a child is a way to convey a message, to communicate something important, and that it's a good way to teach them lessons about life.

"Therefore, adults who were slapped as children, are more likely to go on to smack their own kids."

Dr. Gilles Lazimi is a GP at the Romainville health centre in Seine-Saint-Denis near Paris, and the coordinator of this campaign for the Foundation for Childhood.

The following is the video in question, which contains violence against children that some readers might find disturbing.

The tag line is "For you it's a little slap. For him, it's a big smack."

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French President Macron says France’s laws on child sex abuse must change

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday January 23rd that the law had to change to better protect victims of child sexual abuse, after thousands shared their stories in response to a newly published book.

French President Macron says France's laws on child sex abuse must change

“Today shame is switching sides” from victims to perpetrators, Macron said in a video posted to Twitter, welcoming the fact that “people feel free to speak everywhere in France”.

The flood of testimony under the social media hashtag #Metooinceste followed the early January publication of a book, “La familia grande”, by Camille Kouchner.

In it she accused her step-father, prominent political commentator Olivier Duhamel, of having abused her twin brother. Macron did not directly address that case.

But in a short video posted to Twitter, he promised those speaking out online: “We are here. We're listening to you. We believe you. And you will never be alone again.”

And he added: “We have to adapt our laws to better protect child victims of incest and sexual violence.”

Promising to “punish criminals for their acts in the past and prevent them ever reoffending”, Macron said the law would be updated.

In 2018, France already pushed back the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against minors to 30 years.

But some people have argued such acts should never fall beyond the reach of the justice system.

“No-one can ignore these experiences any longer,” Macron said. “We have to hear and gather victims' testimonies even years, decades afterwards.”