French judges will soon have the option of requiring electronic tracking ankle bracelets for domestic violence offenders, the government said Thursday, as the country grapples with a growing number of women killed by current or former partners.
The measure, which has long been sought by rights advocates, was passed by parliament this year and will be gradually be rolled out starting Friday, according to a decree in France's government bulletin.
The move is part of a wider government crackdown on domestic violence promised by President Emmanuel Macron, who has announced increased training for police and the creation of 1,000 new places in emergency shelters.
The GPS monitor alerts women as well as police if known abusers get to within a certain distance of their victims.
Advocates of the device point to sharp decreases seen after their introduction in Spain and several US states.
Official statistics show that 146 women were killed in domestic violence cases last year, up from 121 in 2018.
Overall, the government estimates that more than 200,000 women are victims of marital violence each year, with many cases never reported.
The coronavirus crisis, which prompted a two-month nationwide lockdown last spring, also led to a surge in domestic violence as many women found themselves stuck with their abusers.
Initially, courts in just five cities will be able to issue the ankle bracelets, but they will be available nationwide by the end of this year, the justice ministry said, adding that around 1,000 of the monitors are currently in stock.
Judges can order them for men convicted of assault or even as part of protection orders for women who report abuse, even before any criminal conviction.
In this case, the alleged offender must agree to wear the bracelet. If he refuses, the judge can order prosecutors to open a criminal inquiry.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will present the new measure at a courthouse in the Paris suburb of Pontoise on Thursday.