France mulls 20-year jail terms for abusive partners who push women to suicide

At least 217 women killed themselves last year in France because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of their partners, a new government study reveals.

France mulls 20-year jail terms for abusive partners who push women to suicide
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France’s Ministry of Equality is considering a new law which would see abusive partners who push women to commit suicide face criminal convictions.

The measure is part of a wide-ranging consultation on France's high rate of domestic murders, with the latest data showing that 217 women took their own lives in 2018 as a direct result of the physical and psychological abuse they were subjected to by their partners.

The figure is even more alarming when considering that another 121 women were killed by their partner or former partner in France last year.


French Secretary of Equality Marlène Schiappa (below) will on Tuesday discuss these findings by independent mental health cooperative Psytel during the latest national consultation on “psychological violence and influence” in the framework of domestic abuse in France.

Some of the laws being proposed include creating an incrimination charge for forced suicide cases involving abused partners, meaning that it would be considered an aggravating circumstance to the offense that currently punishes moral harassment by spouses.

“According to data from 3919 (France’s phone line for abused women), 87 percent of victims have reported suffering psychological abuse,” Yael Mellul, a former lawyer who’s chairing this national consultation, told Le Parisien.

“So yes, the law must punish forced suicide.”

According to psychiatrist Marie-France Hirigoyen, a member of the panel, “psychological violence consists of words and gestures that are intended to destabilize or injure the other, but also to submit, to control, so as to maintain a position of superiority.”

Suicide therefore becomes “a release” for these women, who see it as “the only way out of their hell”.

According to Hirigoyen there’s currently a legal vacuum in France’s 2010 Criminal Code vis-à-vis forced suicide.

Moral harassment of spouses with the intent or consequence of a deterioration of their living conditions as well as their physical or mental health can carry sentences of up to three years, but there’s no mention of what happens if the victim dies as a result of this psychological abuse.

The task force behind this national consultation proposes that the abusive partners of women who commit suicide stand before a court of law, and in cases where the suicide’s causes aren’t deemed multifactorial and directly linked to the moral abuse, those found guilty should face prison sentences of up to 20 years.

The Samaritans' (English speaking) helpline can be contacted here.

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How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

France is set to announce new measures this week to prevent youngsters from accessing porn websites, in the latest round of a years-long struggle to protect children from explicit material.

How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

“I plan to put an end to this scandal,” Digital Affairs Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told the Parisien newspaper on Monday.

France’s data protection and media regulators Cnil and Arcom are set to announce their latest proposals to rein in porn websites which are in theory subject to a 2020 law requiring age verification.

Previous attempts have been held up by privacy and technical concerns, as well as court action by the websites.

To its frustration last September, a Paris court ordered Arcom to enter into mediation with several porn websites including market leader Pornhub, holding up efforts to block them.

READ MORE: France hits Google and Facebook with huge fines over ‘cookies’

Under the new proposal, people wanting to access explicit material will need to download a phone application that provides them with a digital certificate and code, the Parisien reported.

The code will be needed to access a porn website under a system “which will work a bit like the checks from your bank when you buy something online,” Barrot told the newspaper.

“2023 will mark the end of our children accessing pornographic sites,” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is married to former school teacher Brigitte Macron, promised to make protecting children from porn a priority during his bid for re-election last year.

In November, he launched the Children Online Protection Laboratory, an initiative that aims to bring together industry giants and researchers to look for ways to shield minors online.

In September last year, a report entitled “Hell Behind the Scenes” by French senators concluded that there was “massive, ordinary and toxic” viewing of porn by children.

The report found that two thirds of children aged 15 or less had seen pornographic content.

The French production industry has been roiled by a series of sexual assault cases in recent years in which women have come forward to allege rape, mistreatment and manipulation by directors and fellow actors.