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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Will French TV campaign to stop parents smacking children lead to a ban? Fat chance

Another campaign in the form of a 30-second spot on TV and Internet, will be launched this week in France by the Fondation de l'enfance (Foundation for childhood) designed to show why it's not all right to smack a child.

According to the Fondation, in three out of every four French families, parents resort at some point to smacking or slapping their children.

We're talking about under-fives here!

"Any abuse of children can affect their physical and psychological health," says the co-ordinator of the campaign Dr Gilles Lazimi on the organisation's official website.

He wants legislation introduced to bring France into line with most other European countries

The video, is designed to illustrate that this form of "education" is not only counterproductive but also dangerous.

It's also supposed to shock parents.

(screenshot from Fondation de l'enfance video)

 Here we go again. A campaign meant to raise awareness of an issue but one which will probably be met at best with disinterested indifference.

The evidence that it'll have little or no impact is overwhelming.

23 European countries have already passed legislation making corporal punishment, of which smacking is a part, a punishable offence.

Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine,

"Status of corporal punishment: total abolition has been achieved – corporal punishment is prohibited in the home, schools, penal systems and alternative care settings"

But France looks as though it's in no hurry to do likewise.

A bill was presented to the National Assembly by the former parliamentarian and paediatrician  Edwige Antier in 2010.

Nothing happened.

Just over a year ago TF1 ran a report on the "Bon usage de la fessée" in which the case of one mother was used to explain how and why so many parents think it's all right to smack their children...when it's done "properly".

And even though the report also focused on a workshop to encourage alternative sets of parenting skills, the inclusion of a doctor saying it was "all right on occasions to smack a child" simply made the three-and-a-half minute piece an apology for an accepted practice.

(screenshot from Fondation de l'enfance video)

On Monday, France 2 featured the launch of the Fondation's campaign towards the end of its prime time news (here's the link - after the commercial fast forward to 31.37)

The least can be said is that just over one year down the line, attitudes towards smacking seem to be pretty much the same and the format for covering the issue is exactly that: a format.

First up one mother "explaining" that a "gentle" smack was sometimes both appropriate and necessary for her children "to learn".

"I smack him, not in a way which is intended to hurt but to demonstrate to him that he has passed a boundary I've already defined with him," said 28-yea-old teacher Claire Boudaoud.

"And after the smack we talk about it: why I had to do it and put it into context."

Another teacher (France 2 obviously had a stock of them lined up) Chahra Joubrel was also interviewed to put forward the other point of view.

She had smacked her children in the past but now thinks it's the wrong method of disciplining a child.

"It reflects domination by the adult over the child and is certainly not in the child's best interests," she said.

And thrown in for good measure was "the expert" - this time around in the form of psychoanalyst Claude Halmos whose contribution turned what should otherwise have been an objective report into one which became the same inevitable apology for a common practice throughout the country and down the generations.

"We must not confuse systematic beating of a child with the occasional smack given by a parent who loves and respects their child but at a certain moment has no other option. That sort of example is not one of mistreating a child" she said.

Great. So now the parents who are smacking the children are the victims - or what?

And that's an essential part of the problem.

Health professionals in France, according to a poll carried out in 2010,  are overwhelmingly opposed to any sort of legislation banning smacking.

The prevailing belief it seems among most French - and even those foreigners who've chosen to live here - is that the occasional smack under the right circumstances is an effective and appropriate method of education and disciplining a child.

Just take a look at the responses to a similar post last year on the subject on a forum for English-speakers living in France.

France might "need a total ban on parents smacking kids" according to Lazimi,

But convincing lawmakers might be more than the proverbial uphill struggle.

Let's hope the video helps.

1 comment:

Anonymous said... I guess Charles Saatchi and his little tiff with his wife last week when he grabbed her by the throat, pinched her nose and put his hand across her mouth were also neccessary at that moment, for him to put across that she should now be quiet.....if that right? because I see no reason, if its ok for adults to slap children, why it shouldnt be ok for men to slap their wives for the same reason.....just saying...

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