Violent French husbands 'may be tagged'

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Men seen as likely to be violent towards their wives could be forced to wear an electronic tag under a law being debated by the French parliament.

The tag would have to be worn by men who have received a court order to stay away from their partner.

The proposal is part of a draft law on conjugal violence. It has cross-party support and is expected to pass easily.

According to the government, around 160 women in France are murdered by their husbands or partners every year.

Parliament is also considering outlawing psychological violence in the home, because it is seen by many as a precursor to physical violence.

It is rare for the left and the right in France to agree on anything, says the BBC's Hugh Schofield, so the near unanimity in parliament behind this law comes as something of a novelty.

Everyone agrees that domestic violence is bad and getting worse.

Professionals nervous

According to the government's figures, three women are being killed by their partners every week - not including many who are driven to suicide.

According to the proposed measures, men who have received court orders to stay away from their partners will wear an electronic bracelet and if they break the order and approach, police are alerted.

Psychological violence can be hard to prove in court

Another key clause has caused rather more argument - at least outside parliament, says our correspondent.

This is the creation of a new crime of psychological violence inside the home.

The bills' supporters say it is important to recognise that actual violence against women is always preceded by psychological bullying, and that this too needs to be outlawed.

But many lawyers and professionals in the field are nervous, our correspondent says.

They say it will impossible to say at what point verbal abuse - for instance in an argument - suddenly becomes a criminal offence.

Critics argue the psychological violence clause is unlikely to make any practical improvement to the lives of women who suffer domestic violence.