PARIS — The French National Assembly voted on Friday in favour of a largely symbolic ban on parents smacking their children, a practice which though condemned by the UN still enjoys widespread support in the country.
The bill on "corporal punishment or humiliation" seeks to ensure that parental authority is exercised "without violence" of any sort, including "physical, verbal or psychological" violence.
MPs voted it through 51-1 early Friday morning, after a late-night debate, and it will now pass to the Senate.
Attempts by previous governments to ban the practise have run afoul of conservatives.
A 2016 bill condemning the smacking of children was later struck down by the Constitutional Council, which vets legislation, because it was adopted in the form of an amendment to an unrelated piece of legislation.
According to the non-governmental Childhood Foundation, 85 per cent ofFrench parents resort to corporal punishment, to the dismay of many European neighbours, including Sweden and Germany.
Schools have long been banned from physically punishing children, but not parents.
Crucially, the bill would not sanction parents who continue to "discipline" their children as its main goal is "educational" -- a way to encourage society to mend its views, according to Maud Petit, the MP who sponsored the measure.
But it will slap down a 19th-century addendum to the Civil Code’s definition of parental authority, which is read out to couples taking their wedding vows and which specifically allows for "disciplining" children.
It will also bring France into line with international legislation.
In March 2015, human rights organisation the Council of Europe singled out France for failing to ban smacking, unlike most other European countries.
A year later, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child took up the issue, calling on France to "explicitly prohibit" all forms of corporal punishment of children.
Those in favour of the ban say scientific studies prove that children suffer both mental and physical consequences when smacked.
If the bill is adopted, France will become the 55th state to ban corporal punishment of children, a move started by Sweden in 1979. — AFP