France Just Stripped Parents of the Right to Spank Their Children

The French Parliament recently stripped parents of the right to spank their children—even in their own homes.

The “Equality and Citizenship” bill, passed on Dec. 22, now deems discipline that is “cruel, degrading or humiliating, including any use of physical violence ” too strict. That include spanking in the home.

The ban came about, in part, as the result of a 2015 warning by a European human rights body that said France wasn’t doing enough to prevent the spanking and corporal punishment of children. The Council of Europe said France was violating the European Council of Social Rights because spanking wasn’t banned in a “sufficiently clear, binding, and precise manner.”

According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 21 European Union states “have achieved prohibition in all settings, including the home.” Italy and the United Kingdom are holdouts, along with Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Belgium. According to this anti-spanking advocacy group, “States which have ratified the [UN] Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international and regional human rights instruments are under a legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home.”

Critics have warned for years about the dangers of ratifying the UNCRC, saying that it would erode parental rights and give enormous power to international bureaucrats who think they know what’s best for American children. For years, many have dismissed the warnings as fear-mongering. But now we’re witnessing—on full display for the whole world to see—the international nannies throwing their weight around, dictating to parents how they should raise their children. Europeans, socially conscious do-gooders that they are, walked right into these treaties and signed their parental rights over to the UN and the Council of Europe and invited the international nannies to intervene in their most personal family decisions.

French parents are now going to have to pay a steep price for signing on the dotted line. According to a 2009 poll by TNS-Sofres, 67% of French parents reported spanking their children, and 82% said they opposed a ban on corporal punishment. Now they’re going to be violating French law if they decide to spank their children in the privacy of their homes. The bill makes spanking a civil offense but does not specify any penalties for violating it.

For now, American families are safe from this kind of international intrusion into their homes. While the U.S. is a signatory of the UNCRC (Madeleine Albright signed it in 1995) it has not yet been ratified by the Senate. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all declined to submit the Convention to the Senate. (Senator Obama famously called U.S failure to ratify the Convention “embarrassing” when he was running for president in 2008.) It’s still awaiting ratification and any president can send it to the Senate at any time, imperiling the rights of American parents.

Parents use corporal punishment for a variety of reasons. Some do it based on their religious convictions. Others because they have determined it’s the best way to discipline their children. Critics will trot out studies and point to psychological associations that warn of the dangers of spanking. But the studies aren’t conclusive and millions of people will tell you that they were spanked and turned out fine—and scores of parents throughout the ages will tell you that it worked for their kids.

Regardless, it’s still a popular form of discipline in the U.S., with 76% of men and 65% of women saying it’s acceptable. See PJM’s infographic below for more data on spanking in America.