Mouvement pour l'Égalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes

Struggle for recognition of forced suicide

Guidance devices for frontline professionals.

Know, orient and perform psychological autopsy.

The notion of forced suicide is unknown: it refers to a situation in which a person is forced to end his or her life following serious psychological violence. In France, the law  provides its framework since 2020.

However, this is not the case in Belgium or any other European country. Today, the Movement for Equality between Men and Women is fighting to have it recognized by Belgian and, ultimately, European law.

Forced suicide, definition

This notion refers to the situation in which a person ends his or her life following severe psychological violence.


We are talking about psychological violence: denigration, blackmail, threats, sarcasm, contempt, humiliation and so on.


This psychological violence is particularly experienced by victims of domestic violence. A real moral harassment, which is less detectable than physical violence and yet has a major impact on victims (who are mostly women).


As a result of this type of harassment, women (and men) who are victims of psychological violence gradually lose their capacity for judgment. It is then that a real identity rupture takes place in the person: it is called the hold. Control leads to loss of dignity.


The consequences of the hold and this loss of dignity are multiple: depression, chronic pain that can go up to suicide.

When suicide is the only way out of the violence suffered in the couple

Estimated number of forced suicides


forced suicides




mortality of women within the couple, for the year 2017 in Belgium.

Forced suicide in France

Before 2020, violence within the couple was punished but forced suicide was not recognized as a psychological consequence punishable by law.

Moral harassment at work, on the other hand, had been punished by law since 2002. It was not until 2010 that France included moral harassment between (ex) spouses in its penal code.

What about a forced suicide law?

In 2019, a working group « psychological violence and control » was created. The French government then organized round tables (called Le Grenelle), bringing together a multitude of actors whose objective is to create real measures to fight domestic violence and find solutions to violence against women.

Among these measures, the recognition of forced suicide in French law. This notion is an aggravating circumstance of moral harassment within the couple and this, in the law.

Forced suicide in Belgium and the European Union

There is a real legal vacuum regarding forced suicide in Belgium. In 2021, a bill was tabled, so that the perpetrators of this psychological violence can be convicted.

For the time being, the law only provides for convictions in cases of physical violence Feminicides are recognized by jurisprudence, but today, feminist associations and authors of draft laws argue for their inclusion in the Criminal Code.

But as for female suicides in this context, we are facing a legal vacuum. In 2021, a bill was introduced:

« The author proposes to aggravate the penalties provided for in articles 442 bis and 442 ter of the Penal Code relating respectively to the offence of harassment and the offence of aggravated harassment when one of the motives of the author is hatred, contempt or hostility towards a person on the basis of their own characteristics. Once the harassment has led the victim to commit suicide, we will be talking about doubling the minimum correctional sentences provided for in these previous sections. » Full article to read on 

This law has not passed and would not have discouraged the authors.

Today, another bill is under way: a bill that treats forced suicide as manslaughter. At the same time, Belgium is the first country to recognize femicide in law.

Yaël Mellul has established himself as a figure in the fight against violence against women in France. After a career as a lawyer specializing in domestic violence, she provided a long-term work so that forced suicide is recognized within the French Penal Code. You will find the hard fight she led in the process of adopting the law of July 30, 2020 in her book "My fight against the grip and forced suicide" published in 2021 by Michel Lafon.

The Mouvement pour l'égalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes is a non-profit association that was created in 2015 to develop initiatives and studies to combat gender discrimination. The association welcomes volunteers and interns during certain periods of the year. We are a team fully involved in the cause for equality between women and men.

Psytel is a non-profit civil society founded in 1994. It is a cooperative of independent experts working in the field of health information systems and in the field of injury prevention, including everyday accidents and violence against children, adolescents and women.

The European project on forced suicides is funded by the Justice DG of the European Commission as well as the project partners: Psytel (FR) and MEFH (BE).

Download below the project flyer

Our article on forced suicide :

This site was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).

The content of this site represents only the point of view of the author and is his sole responsibility. The European Commission accepts no responsibility for the use that may be made of the information contained therein.

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