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POLITICS

French MPs debate law to make school bullying punishable by 3 years in jail

France's parliament began examining a draft law on Wednesday that would make bullying at school punishable by up to three years in jail as part of efforts to combat the scourge.

French MPs debate law to make school bullying punishable by 3 years in jail
Illustration photo: Patrick Herzog/AFP

The proposals won support from Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and are expected to be backed by a majority of lawmakers from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling coalition and the right-wing Republicans party.

“We will never accept the lives of our children being shattered,” Blanquer said during a debate, calling the draft law “a way of enforcing the values of the republic.”

As well as increasing resources for prevention and education, the legislation would create a new crime of “school bullying” which would carry a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to €45,000, depending on the severity of the case and the age of the culpit.

In cases that involved the victim committing suicide, or attempting to, the punishment could be up to 10 years in prison.

Several bullying cases that have ended in tragedy have made headlines in France this year, including the suicide of a 14-year-old girl in the eastern Alsace region in October who was harrassed after she confessed to classmates that she was gay.

In March, the body of another 14-year-old girl was found in the river Seine in Paris.

She had suffered severe bullying from fellow pupils after photos of her in her underwear were stolen from her phone.

She was then allegedly attacked and murdered by two teenagers who were arrested afterwards.   

Left-wing opponents of the government criticised the proposed law.

Sabine Rubin from the France Unbowed party called it a “illusionary and demagogic over-reaction.”

“We are not in favour of criminalising minors and increasing repression,” Michele Victory, an MP from the Socialist party, said ahead of Wednesday’s parliamentary debate.

Bullying can already be prosecuted in France under laws criminalising harassment, opponents say.

Erwan Balanant, an MP from the centrist MoDem party who drafted the legislation, said the law would have “a pedogogic value.”

“The idea is to engage with the whole of society,” he said.

As many as one in ten French school pupils suffer from bullying at some time, surveys show, and experts say the age-old problem has changed in nature because of mobile phones and social networks which often cause public humiliation for victims.

France’s first lady, Brigitte Macron, who is a former teacher, has made combating bullying a focus of her charity work since 2017.

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POLITICS

‘A good thing’ for footballers to express values, says France’s PM

France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne - speaking in Berlin - said that footballers should be allowed to express their values, amid controversy over FIFA's stance against the 'OneLove' armband on the pitch.

'A good thing' for footballers to express values, says France's PM

“There are rules for what happens on the field but I think it’s a good thing for players to be able to express themselves on the values that we obviously completely share, while respecting the rules of the tournament,” said Borne at a press conference in Berlin on Friday.

Germany’s players made headlines before Wednesday’s shock loss to Japan when the team lined up for their pre-match photo with their hands covering their mouths after FIFA’s threat to sanction players wearing the rainbow-themed armband.

Seven European nations, including Germany, had previously planned for their captains to wear the armband, but backed down over FIFA’s warning.

Following Germany’s action, Wales and the Netherlands have since come out to say they would not mirror the protest.

Borne’s visit to Germany was her first since she was named to her post in May.

Following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the two leaders signed an agreement for “mutual support” on “guaranteeing their energy supplies”.

Concrete measures outlined in the deal include France sending Germany gas supplies as Berlin seeks to make up for gaping holes in deliveries from Russia.

Germany meanwhile would help France “secure its electricity supplies over winter”, according to the document.

France had since 1981 been a net exporter of electricity to its neighbours because of its nuclear plants. But maintenance issues dogging the plants have left France at risk of power cuts in case of an extremely cold winter.

The two leaders also affirmed their countries’ commitment to backing Ukraine “to the end of” its conflict with invaders Russia.

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