France unveils tougher penalties for domestic violence

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced new measures Monday to prevent deadly domestic violence against amid a rising number of cases.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe speaks Monday about addressing domestic violence, standing next to French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa during the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Paris, France. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin

Philippe said the updated measures would account for psychological forms of harassment that frequently lead to physical violence. The changes also would include tougher penalties, the ability to seize firearms from abusive spouses and better train police to respond to cases, he said.

The legislation would help create 1,000 new shelters for domestic violence victims and expand the use of electronic bracelets for offenders.

Authorities said that at least 137 women have been killed this year by domestic violence and 121 were killed last year. An estimated 220,000 suffer from domestic violence in France every year, according to the National Observatory of Violence Against Women.

France’s Justice Ministry said this month 41 percent of “conjugal homicide” victims had previously reported domestic violence incidents, and 80 percent of complaints sent to prosecutors were not investigated.

“Clearly, our system is failing to protect women,” French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said.

French feminist activist Caroline de Haas argued the new measures are not enough to make a difference.

“The prime minister announces exactly the same budget allocated against violence in 2020 as in 2019,” de Haas said on social media. “They’re not changing public policy. The domestic violence figures will not drop. I am disgusted.”

Organizers supported about 30 rallies in France Saturday that called on the government to invest more money in violence prevention. They argued the response by authorities is unacceptable and the government should invest more than $1 billion to address the problem.

ByClyde Hughes