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France: Law on Violence Against Women

(Sept. 20, 2010) The French Parliament has adopted Law 2010-769, of July 9, 2010, on Violence Against Women, Violence Between Spouses, and the Effects of These Types of Violence on Children, which sets forth new means of protection against violence available to participants in any of the various familial structures (marriages, civil partnerships, and co-habitation,) (Loi no. 2010-769 du 9 juillet 2010, relative aux violences faites specifiquement au femmes, aux violences au sein des couples et aux incidences de ces dernières sur les enfants, legifrance, [File: Les autres textes législatifs et réglementaires]). The Law creates a new Title XIV in the Civil Code entitled “Protection Measures for Victims of Violence” (id. art. 1). Although it protects both sexes, the Law is primarily designed to help women and children who are victims of domestic violence. It contains civil and criminal provisions.

New Tool in the Family Law Context – Protective Orders

The Law introduces a new tool, the protective order (ordonnance de protection) rendered by a family judge, which permits the protection of the victim through various measures, including the following:

(1) evicting the violent spouse, partner, or co-habitant and rendering a decision on which party will be financially responsible for the family housing;

(2) prohibiting the violent spouse from seeing certain individuals and from owning a firearm or any other type of weapon;

(3) allowing the victim to hide where she/he is domiciled;

(4) ruling on the custody of the children;

(5) prohibiting a child to leave French territory without the authorization of both parents; and

(6) awarding legal aid to the victim. (Id. arts. 1, 3.)

Violation of any of the measures set by the family judge is punishable by a maximum of two years of imprisonment and a €15,000 fine (about US$19,000). (Id. art. 5.) The measures are valid four months and may be extended if a divorce or separation request has been filed. The judge may amend them at any time. (Id. art. 1.) The wearing of an electronic bracelet may also be ordered in cases in which the violence or threats of violence are punishable by at least five years of imprisonment. (Id. art. 6.) In addition, victims of domestic violence may benefit from tele-protection if they wish. (Id.)

Criminalization of Psychological Violence and Increased Penalties for Forced Marriage

The Law also contains several criminal provisions aimed at reinforcing the fight against familial violence, including psychological violence. Harassing one's spouse, partner, or co-habitant by repeated acts that “degrade one's quality of life and cause a change in one's physical or mental state of health” is punishable by a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a €45,000 fine (about US$57,000), if that harassment resulted in an incapacity to work for eight days or less or does not result in any work incapcity. The penalty is increased to five years and a fine of €75,000 (about US$95,000) if the resulting incapacity to work is over eight days. (Id. art. 31.)

The Law also reinforces the fight against forced marriages. Penalties incurred for violence, torture, barbaric acts, or murder are increased where the perpetrator of the offense committed them to force a person to marry or against a person who refused to marry. French law is also applicable where the penalty is committed abroad and the victim habitually resides in France. (Id. art.33.)

Education Code Amended to Require Anti-Violence Instruction

Finally, the Law amends the Education Code to include an article requiring schools to give instruction, at each education level, on gender equality and on countering domestic violence and discrimination. To provide this kind of education, schools are allowed to ask for the help of associations specialized in the defense of women's rights and in the promotion of gender equality as well as the help of other persons involved in the prevention of and combat against the related acts of violence. (Id. art. 23.)