By Peter Allen
France will become the first country in the world to ban ‘psychological violence’ within marriage later this year.
The new law, which would also apply to co-habiting couples, would see people getting criminal records for insulting their loved ones during domestic arguments.
Electronic tagging would be used on repeat offenders, according to the country’s prime minister, Francois Fillon, who announced the law.
If it proves successful, it could be introduced in other European countries including Britain.
The law is particularly aimed at protecting women who currently suffer the worst attacks of this kind, ranging from off-hand comments about their appearance to threats of physical violence.
Mr Fillon said: ‘It’s an important step forward as 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.’
He added that his government would also be experimenting with electronic surveillance measures to ‘monitor the effectiveness of restraining orders against a violent spouse’.
Psychologist Anne Giraud said: ‘Squabbling couples will allege all kinds of things about each other, but they won’t necessarily be true.
‘The police are likely to be called out more and more when this law comes into force this year, but often it will be a case of one person’s word against the other.
‘Psychological violence is a very serious matter, but punishing it through the courts is a very different matter altogether.’
Critics have also said the government should not be intervening in private domestic arguments in which no one got hurt.