A mother and a stepfather have been charged over suspected foul play after it was discovered their 15-month-old baby was covered in bruises after she was "rocked" in a washing machine.

The stepfather, 22, has been charged in the southern French city of Perpignan with aggravated violence against a minor and domestic violence, France Bleu reported. The man is being held in custody over allegations that he placed the baby in a washing machine and turned her in the drum seven or eight times.

The mother, 19, has been charged with not intervening to stop the abuse. When questioned she claimed her partner had threatened her many times with death and she was afraid of provoking his temper. She claimed the baby was not spun in the washing machine while it was turned on but rather "rocked" manually.

For his part the man has denied torturing the child and claimed he put her in the appliance because he wanted to rid her of her "bad character" and "teach her about life".

Social services became aware of the case when the baby was brought to a local hospital covered in bruises and with reddened skin.

Further medical examinations will now be performed on the child to ascertain whether she has suffered further abuse in the past. The couple was previously unknown to authorities and neither of the pair have been accused of any similar offences.