March 12, 2024

France passes law to protect children from suspected abusive parents

France passes law to protect children from suspected abusive parents

France’s parliament Tuesday passed legislation to systematically suspend parental authority for those being investigated for incest or domestic violence, and withdraw it fully if they are sentenced.

The lower-house National Assembly gave its green light to the bill on Monday, and so did the upper-house Senate on Tuesday.

Rights groups have criticised loopholes in the judicial system that until now have left children at the potential mercy or even in the custody of an alleged abuser during a drawn-out investigation.

Under the new law, parents under investigation for alleged sexual abuse or any other crime against their child automatically see all their parental rights suspended, including being able to look after their child or have them to stay.

This was previously only the case if a probe had been opened into an alleged crime by one parent against the other.

The new legislation also ensures the complete withdrawal of rights if a parent is condemned for sexual abuse of their child, or a crime committed against their child or the other parent, unless the judge justifies a different decision.

In its strictest form, this punishment means the parent is not even kept informed of key moments of their child’s life.

“It is our duty to protect children who are the victims of a parent who is an abuser,” said Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

UN experts in January urged France to act swiftly to protect children from incest and other sexual abuse, and halt discrimination against mothers trying to protect their children from such abuse.

They pointed to cases where children alleged to be victims or at high risk of sexual abuse are “placed in the custody of fathers against whom the allegations are made, and the mothers are penalised for child abduction for trying to protect their children”.

Around 160,000 children become victims of sexual assault every year in France, and 5.5 million French adults suffered sexual abuse during their childhood, according to CIIVISE, a government-created commission for the protection of sexual abuse victims.

It said that in 95 percent of the cases, the perpetrators are men.