Married couples could be arrested and charged for insulting each other under a new law in France banning 'psychological violence'.
Published: 7:00AM GMT 06 Jan 2010
The proposed legislation would punish partners who 'overstep the mark' during verbal spats in the home.
The law would apply to husbands and wives, as well as cohabiting couples.
It is expected to cover every kind of slur from repeated rude remarks about a partner's appearance, false allegations of infidelity and threats of physical violence.
Police are being urged to issue a caution in the first instance of a reported crime, but repeat offenders could face a fine, electronic tagging or jail.
The law, being put forward by the prime minister, Francois Fillon, is aimed at protecting women who are the main victims of abuse in the home.
But men would also have the right to report their wives for verbal abuse.
Mr Fillon said: "It's an important move forward as the creation of this offence will let us tackle the most insidious situations, the ones that leave no physical scars but which still injure the victims inside."
But some experts have called the law a gimmick that will be impossible to enforce, and that the government should not be interfere in non-violent domestic squabbles.
Anne Giraud, a psychologist, 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."
Pierre Bonnet, a sociologist, added: "Next they will be making rudeness a crime, and the police and courts will be overrun with work."
In 2008, 157 French women and seven French men were killed by their spouses or partners, with hundreds more injured in outbursts of domestic violence. Mr Fillon said the new law had the support of the majority of the government and could come into force within six months.