According to the UK’s Daily Mail, the French government is considering a ban on yelling or verbally abusing your spouse, including cohabiting unmarried partners:
It would cover men who shout at their wives and women who hurl abuse at their husbands – although it was not clear last night if nagging would be viewed as breaking the law.
The law is expected to cover every kind of insult including repeated rude remarks about a partner’s appearance, false allegations of infidelity and threats of physical violence.
This is an interesting idea. I appreciate its intent, especially as presented by the French premier:
But French premier Francois Fillon, who announced the law, said: ‘The creation of this offence will allow us to deal with the most insidious situations – situations that leave no visible scars, but which leave victims torn up inside.’
But the potentially expansive limits to free speech make this proposal insurmountable to me. The idea of banning psychological abuse is certainly valid, and when viewed as a parallel to any prohibition of physical abuse, it does make some sense. But I can’t quite imagine how it could be implemented. Who exactly would determine rises to the level ascribed in the law, and how would they make such determination?
I think a potential alternative to this type of law might be to instead use evidence of psychological abuse as either an aggravating factor in cases against physically abusive spouses, or a mitigating factor in cases where the abused retaliates or defends him or herself against the abuser. That would present a similar policy but would not punish speech alone.