France Is Going to Ban Yelling at Your Wife

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.

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21 thoughts on “France Is Going to Ban Yelling at Your Wife

  1. While I’m sure there are good intentions behind this, I am very, very much against limitations on free speech. It is a slippery slope, my friend.

  2. Well, it all depends on the precise definition of the law. It is very unlikely that freedom of speech will be touched. This is about abuse, not about normal fights that happen in relationships. I would assume that the definition describes exactly what falls under this law and what not and when you have the right to go to the police.

  3. Social retardation is prolific among those that live
    at the main point level ie 6th grade. Or as logic says too many
    facts often obscure the truth.

    How about mandatory social skills classes parenting..etc…

  4. This is Europe, we don’t have a constitutionalized right of “free speech” (example: Holocaust denial is a crime in Austria, resulting in incarceration) so your argument is not very valid I’m afraid.

    • Just because Holocaust denial is illegal in Austria (and in Germany as well, btw) it doesn’t mean that there is no constitutionalised right of free speech. In Germany it’s Article 5 of the constitution (Arikel 5, Grundgesetz: Meinungsfreiheit). In Denmark it’s §77 of the constitution (called Ytringsfrihed). Oh, and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides the right to freedom of expression.

      Why do you think the entire Muhammed Crisis happened in Denmark some years back? Because the Danish Government refused to apoligise and to punish the people behind the drawings and their publication. You know why? Because of the right of free speech that everybody has.

      Btw, just because there is the freedom of speech in a countries constitution, you’re not allowed to say just anything. Defamation is not allowed in the USA either, is it??

      • Inestia why should anyone apologise for a cartoon? Those muslims that rioted were a bunch of crazy people who needed to calm their asses down and get a sense of humor.

        • I’m not saying that anyone should apologise. The cartoonists and the publishers have the right to express their opinion.
          Parker said “This is Europe, we don’t have a constitutionalized right of “free speech” – which is incorrect. I just used the example to illustrate the fact that there is freedom in speech in Europe. Which is the reason that the Danish government neither is interested nor does it have the right to act against this freedom.
          Maybe the word “refused” sort of sounded critical – that was not my intention.

      • It doesn’t actually matter if it’s a constitutional right. I think that when a lot of people say that it interferes with the right to free speech, they are talking about a theoretical right that people are believed to have, like the ‘right to clean water’ or the ‘right to healthcare’. It’s not that anyone knows (or cares) about what’s actually in the french constitution – it’s that it interferes with what is *believed* to be a right.

      • contemplates? As in, the constitution gives a nice long think to the idea of freedom of speech?
        I’m guessing that is not what you meant, but I can’t begin to guess what you did.

  5. While I find this amusing, it’s also kinda scary. Who’s gonna report it? Will your nosy ass neighbors be calling the cops every time you have an argument? It seems very Gestapo-ish.

  6. How do you prove any verbal abuse besides record it? WOuldn’t it all just be hear-say in court? You could make up any old thing you wanted if you were pissed off enough at your husband or wife. I guess I just don’t get how this will work. Something like this has great intentions, but the practical side of it is just confusing.

    • I’m looking forward to reading the actual law, it will probably explain a lot (well, hopefully). But I can imagine that one has to prove the suffering of grave verbal abuse (maybe with a statement from a psychologist).
      I don’t think it is the intention to flood the French courts with cases about couples that are pissed off at each other, and I would assume that they took that into account when formulating the law.

      • Good point. And please do let us know when the bill comes out, because I’d like to read it myself. It’s a very good idea in theory, and I hope it can be in practice, as well.

        • Thanks! That’s an interesting article, but to me it raises more questions than it asks. The more I think about it, the more I am against this law, actually. Dont get me wrong, I’m all for curbing verbal abuse, but this is very strange.

          Where is the line drawn? What will the punishment be for those who are the abusers? Will the abused be any better off after the court proceedings, since the damage of the verbal abuse has already been inflicted? I don’t think this will solve problems. Will a man (or woman) not angrily berate his wife (or husband) because there’s a law against it? Will that be what the abuser is thinking about when he’s in a rage? Wouldn’t a more prudent measure (and better use of the funds for this law) be to educate women and men to leave destructive relationships before they reach a damaging level?

          It’s very hard to put laws on words, especially in personal relationships. Some couples just fight. Don’t get me wrong, psychological abuse is a terrible thing, but men and women have been dealing with it for centuries. Everyone has emotionally damaging relationships, but isn’t that where divorce and break-ups come from? As I stated before, perhaps a better focus would be educating women and men on how to avoid getting into these situations, and also how to get out of them.

          In the article you supplied, it seems as though this bill will certainly be passed, but many of these questions haven’t been answered, and that’s scary.

  7. This is stupid – we can’t legislate on every single aspect of life. This shouldn’t be a law itself but just an annex on another, more general law. Having the law defining what is free speech and what is abuse within a couple is dangerous – what my dad tells my mum could be considered by some as verbal abuse, whereas others would just think it’s nagging. Same goes with my sarcasm and witty comments I used with my ex.

    • Arresting anyone for what they say is absurd. In this country we have these assinine “hate crime” laws that are equally ridiculous. Isn’t every crime essentially a “hate” crime? Using a “bad” word should not warrant anyone being criminally charged. Words are just words, they aren’t knives or guns so just grow up and get over it.

  8. Though I am not discounting the importance of the freedom of speech, I certainly think it is a valiant effort on behalf of France to try to do something about verbal abuse.
    A spouse could psychologically destroy their partner with their words, and yet there is no legal course of action unless a fist is raised. It hardly seems fair.
    I can see how there would be a huge policing issue (how many time have any of you gotten in a fight with your significant other, and yelled out something hurtful? Imagine a neighbour was listening, and you were currently sitting in jail for such an outburst…), but if serious psychological damage could be proven by a psychologist, the law could prove quite useful.
    As many others have said, I would have to see the actual law before I could make any actual judgement, but I do commend France for taking a step to stop verbal abuse.

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