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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

Country Details

France

  • Cour d'appel de Douai 1re chambre civile, 17 novembre 2008, No. 08/03786, France, Cour d'appel de Douai (Chambre Civile), 2008.
    The Prosecutor appealed a marriage annulment received by a husband on the grounds that his wife had deceived him regarding her virginity. The lower court had granted this annulment citing the wife's consent to the annulment as proof of her belief that her virginity was an essential determinant of her husband's consent to marriage. The Court of Appeals granted the appeal and rejected the marriage annulment, stating that a lie that does not concern an "essential quality" is not good grounds for the annulment of a marriage, especially where the alleged deception focuses on the wife's virginity, the absence of which has no impact on married life. The alleged resulting violation of "mutual confidence" has no effect upon the validity of the marriage. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals stated that the marriage could not be annulled for a deception regarding the wife's virginity as this would go against the principles of public policy.
  • Cour d'appel de Rennes CT0011, 9 mai 2006, No. 634, France, Cour d'appel de Rennes, 2006.
    The family court awarded the marital home to Appellant's wife under Section 220-1 of the Civil Code, which provides that where one spouse threatens or perpetrates violence, the judge may rule that the couple should live apart, allocating the marital dwelling to the spouse who was not the perpetrator of the violence. Appellant appealed on the grounds that he had limited income, that the dwelling was his childhood home, that his wife had left voluntarily, and that she, a native of Algeria, had only married him for a French residence permit. The Court of Appeals found that there was ample evidence, such as medical reports, proving that the husband had committed violent acts against his wife on multiple occasions, that the wife had left the marital home because of such violence, and that there was no evidence that she had tried to terminate the marriage upon receipt of her residence permit. Furthermore, the Court stated that temporary housing in a women's shelter run by SOS Femmes was not tantamount to the wife's finding other lodging. The Court of Appeals therefore rejected the appeal and upheld the family court's decision to award the marital home to Appellant's wife.
  • Case C-136/95, Thibault [1998] ECR I-2011, France, , 1998.
    T was employed by the CNAVTS as a “rédacteur juridique” (official responsible for legal drafting). According to a CNAVTS policy, any employee, after six months service, was automatically entitled to assessment of his/her performance in order to evaluate the possibility of promotion. T was on leave for over six months of the year because of both sickness and pregnancy and was denied assessment. However, had she not taken her maternity leave, she would have accumulated the required six months period necessary for the assessment. According to the relevant French legislation in force at that time, an employee was entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave, which could be extended to 28 weeks, and that this period was “to be treated as period of actual work for the purpose of determining a worker’s rights by virtue of length of service” (L 123-1(c) Code du travail). T brought the case before the Conseil de Prud’hommes (Labor Tribunal) in Paris, which upheld her claim and ordered CNAVTS to compensate her. SNAVTS appealed to the Cour de Cassation (court of Cassation), which set aside the previous judgment and referred the case to the Conseil de Prud’hommes of Melun which reiterated the Paris tribunal’s conclusion. CNAVTS again appealed to the Cour de Cassation which referred the case to the ECJ. The ECJ held that the Equal Treatment Directive allows Member States to guarantee women specific rights on account of pregnancy and maternity. These rights are constructed so as to ensure the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women. The Court stressed that, seen in this light, “the result pursued by the Directive is substantive, not formal equality”. The Court stated that Member States enjoy discretion on how to implement these rights; however, this discretion must be exercised within the boundaries prescribed by the Directive. Thibault marked the return of the pivotal principle that discrimination on grounds of pregnancy and maternity leads to direct discrimination which had been watered down since its establishment in Dekker.
  • Cour de cassation Chambre criminelle, Rejet, 7 avril 1998 No. 97-84.068, France, Cour de Cassation (Chambre criminelle), 1998.
    Appellant was convicted of aggravated assault against his wife under Section 222-13 of the Penal Code, which provides that violence against a spouse is an aggravating circumstance that adds to the gravity of the original offense. Appellant appealed his conviction on the grounds that at the time of the violence the two spouses lived separately according to the orders of their on-going divorce proceedings. The Court rejected the appeal, finding that application of Section 222-13 of the Penal Code, aggravation of assault if committed against a spouse, does not require co-habitation of the spouses.
  • Public Ministry  v. Stoeckel, France, European Court of Justice, 1991.
    Employment discrimination
  • Cour de Cassation Chambre criminelle, Rejet, 5 septembre 1990, No. 90-83.786, France, Cour de Cassation (Chambre criminelle), 1990.
    Appellant appealed his indictment for aggravated rape, assault, and torture and acts of barbarism against his wife, arguing that marriage creates a presumption of consent to sexual relations between spouses. The Court found that such a presumption is not conclusive and that Section 332 of the Penal Code, which defines rape as "[a]ny act of sexual penetration, whatever its nature, committed against another person by violence, constraint, threat or surprise," does not exclude the possibility of rape within a marital relationship where there is a lack of consent. Furthermore, the same reasoning applies to sexual abuse other than penetration. The Court thus recognized that rape and other sexual abuse can take place within a marital relationship.
  • Commission of the European Communities v. France, France, European Court of Justice, 1988.
    Employment discrimination