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 legal bases

Appearance in French law

See also :

Women victims of forced suicide: Moral harassment with aggravating circumstance of suicide or suicide attempt punished by French law

The appearance of the notion of forced suicide in French law :

Before 2020, in France, when moral harassment in a couple pushed, among the psychological consequences, women victims to commit suicide in order to get out of the mental prison in which they had been locked up by their executioner, There was nothing in the penal code to sanction him. This finding was all the more frightening because it differed when these facts took place in the sphere of work, the perpetrators of moral harassment at work being prosecuted. Indeed, a law of 17 January 2002 on social modernization incorporated the offence of moral harassment at work, thereby endorsing years of prudhommale jurisprudence.

With regard to moral harassment within the couple, it took more than eight additional years for the law of 9 July 2010 on violence against women to amend the penal code to include the offence of moral harassment between (ex) spouses.

  • – Legal definition of moral harassment: Moral harassment within the couple consists of “repeated acts with the object or effect of a deterioration in the living conditions [of the spouse, partner bound by a civil covenant of solidarity or cohabitant] resulting in an alteration of his physical or mental health” (1).
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It will also be moral harassment within the couple when:

“these remarks or behaviours are imposed on the same victim by several persons, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one of them, even though each of these persons has not acted repeatedly;

these words or behaviours are imposed on the same victim, successively, by several people who, even in the absence of consultation, know that these words or behaviours characterize a repetition “(2).

The penalty for this offence of moral harassment ranges from one year to five years’ imprisonment depending on the duration of the incapacity for work it causes and a number of aggravating factors (3).

  • – Definition of moral harassment in a couple for women victims: Moral harassment includes all micro-violence, namely lies, sarcasm, insults, contempt, humiliation, denigration, isolation, financial dependence, threats.

    For the victim of bullying, there are many psychological consequences. This psychological violence is the cement of violence without which no woman, no individual, can accept the unacceptable, tolerate the intolerable. Since after possessing his mind, the executioner will need to possess his body. And irreversibly, physical violence will settle. And, in a number of cases, this violence has a fatal outcome. Indeed, death is often the outcome of this violence.

    Forced suicide, provoked suicide or induced suicide is the name given to these situations where women victims of psychological violence give themselves the death led to this by the manipulation, control and unbearable suffering they experience. In a context of domestic violence, suicide appears, for a majority of women, to be the only bearable outcome following the harassment and suffering inflicted by the violent spouse. Indeed, according to a survey conducted in France by the feminist citizen movement in 2019, 76% of victims of domestic violence have suicidal thoughts (4).

  • Despite these alarming figures, until 2020, there was no legal tool to prosecute the perpetrators who led their victims to suicide, as was the case with other voluntary violence.

    Grenelle contre les violences conjugales: This is the reason why Yaël Mellul, a fervent defender of the rights of women victims of violence between partners, questioned Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination, on the issue of psychological violence, control and forced suicides. Not without difficulty, a working group «psychological violence and control» was finally created as part of the Grenelle against domestic violence.

    – Le Grenelle is a series of round tables organized by the French government between September 3 and November 25, 2019 (date corresponding to the International Day against Violence against Women). Its objective was to bring together a number of key players (associations, families and relatives of victims, lawyers, health professionals, ministers, etc.) so that they can identify measures to effectively address domestic violence. This objective was based on three fundamental pillars: prevention, protection and management, and repression.

  • Among the measures that have succeeded is the integration of forced suicide into French law.

    To achieve this, Yaël Mellul collaborated with Véronique Wester-Ouisse, lecturer in private and criminal law and deputy prosecutor in Quimper. The latter made it possible to draw up a picture of existing incriminations and to note that none could be applicable in case of suicide provoked by the repeated violence and humiliation of a spouse. The solution was therefore to create an aggravating factor in the law against moral harassment.

    Thus, when moral harassment within the couple led the victim to commit suicide or attempt suicide, the penalty for the perpetrator is ten years imprisonment and 150,000 euros in fine(5).

    This is the reason why Yaël Mellul questioned Marlène Schippa, Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination on the issue of psychological violence, control and forced suicides. Not without difficulties, a “psychological violence and control” working group was finally created as part of the Grenelle against domestic violence.

  • The Grenelle is a series of round tables organized by the French government between September 3 and November 25, 2019 (date corresponding to the International Day to Fight Violence Against Women). Its objective was to bring together a number of key players (associations, families and relatives of victims, lawyers, health professionals, ministers, etc.) so that they can identify measures to effectively address domestic violence. This objective was based on three fundamental pillars: prevention, protection and management, and repression.

    Among the measures that have succeeded is the integration of forced suicide into French law.

  • To achieve this, Yaël Mellul collaborated with Véronique Wester-Ouisse, lecturer in private and criminal law and deputy prosecutor in Quimper. The latter made it possible to draw up a picture of existing incriminations and to note that none could be applicable in case of suicide provoked by the repeated violence and humiliation of a spouse. The solution was therefore to create an aggravating factor in the law against moral harassment.

    Thus, when the harassment within the couple led the victim to commit suicide or attempt to commit suicide, the perpetrator could face ten years in prison and 150,000 euros in fine(5).

    (1) C.pénal., s. 222-33-2-1.
    (2) C.pénal., s. 222-33-2-2, s. 2.
    (3) C.pénal., s. 222-33-2-1 and 222-33-2-2.
    (4) CITOYEN FEMINISTE, “Violences conjugales et envies suicidaires”, available on https://blogs.mediapart.fr/citoyenne-feministe/blog/021019/violences-conjugales-et-envies-suicidaires, 2octobre2019.
    (5) C.pénal., s. 222-33-2-1, s. 3.

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