Parents ordered to appear in court for giving their child a Breton name
The president of the region of Brittany has accused the French state of “unforgivable social violence” after two parents were ordered to appear in court because they gave their child a Breton name.
Caroline and Arthur, a couple in their 30s living near the city of Angers, gave the name Fañch, the Breton equivalent of Francis or Ffransis, to their son when he was born last summer.
Now they have received a letter from the local public prosecutor telling them they must appear before a judge at the family court next month.
According to the Agence France-Presse news agency, the letter states that the accent above the letter ‘N’, which is called a tilde and indicates a nasal pronunciation, “is not a diacritical sign used in the French language.”
The prosecutor concluded that the name is “against the interests of the child” and asked the family court to “give the child another first name with the agreement of the parents, or failing that, without their agreement.”
“They’re implying that we’re bad parents just because we have used a tilde,” mother Caroline, who chose the name Fañch to reflect her roots in Brittany, told the Ouest France newspaper.
“We’re not going to call him a different name from one day to the next.”
It’s the second time in less than six months that the name has been subject to a legal dispute.
Mélissa Yana and Étienne Pichancourt, from Lorient in Brittany, were told they had made an “error” in naming their son who was born last June.
A letter sent to the couple by French public prosecutor Stéphane Kellenberge said he “cannot legally do anything other than proceed with the administrative correction of the error in the writing of your child’s first name.”
The objections come despite the country’s highest civil court upholding the right of another Breton family to give their child the same name in 2019.
Caroline, whose second name has not been made public, said they were warned when registering the birth of Fañch that the name could be rejected but added: “We made the choice to keep it and to fight if necessary.”
Loïg Chesnais-Girard, the president of the Brittany region, has called for the law to be updated to allow the use of the name.
“It’s time to stop this unforgivable social violence,” he said in a statement.
“It’s time that the richness of identities and regional languages is recognised in France and that each and everyone one of us can live in dignity. I give my total support to the family of little Fañch.”
France’s national assembly passed a law on regional languages in 2021, which included the right to use accents like the tilde in the name Fañch.
But that part of the legislation was later struck down by the constitutional court, along with provisions for immersive education in France’s minority languages.
France is one of a handful in western Europe not to have ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
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