France to set age of sexual consent at 15 after rape outcry

Any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence under current French law
Any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence under current French law
Author

07 March, 2018

Minister of Solidarity and Health Agnes Buzyn said setting a legal age of sexual consent would allow a "collective awareness" and that everyone would see what was "legal and illegal", Le Figaro newspaper reported.

Currently, France does not have a rule saying a child under a certain age is considered incapable of consenting to sex.

The French government is proposing a law that would say anyone under 15 can not consent to sex, after widespread shock at two cases involving 11-year-old girls.

In December, Macron said he would push for the age of sexual consent and the presumption of rape to both be set at 15, saying: "Our criminal law contains intolerable ambiguities".

Under existing laws, if violence and force can't be proven, offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not with rape.

The announcement was made by France's Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa on Monday and will mean that any adult engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 15 can be prosecuted.

There had been some debate as to whether to set France's new consent threshold at 13 years or 15 years, but the latter was chosen after input from experts. "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls".

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Last November, a french court acquitted a 30-year-old rape after it determined that his 11-year-old victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".

It had been discussing whether to set the age as 13 or 15, which is what groups fighting violence against children had campaigned for.

In the United Kingdom the age of sexual consent is 16, but children under the age of 13 have additional legal protections that declare they can never consent to sexual activity.

Schiappa told the news agency that she was "very glad" that the age limit decided by the government was 15.

In two recent separate legal cases, adult men were accused of having sex with 11-year-old girls, who were considered consenting under French law. President Emmanuel Macron met his future wife, Brigitte, when he was around 14 and she was 38 and a teacher at his school.

"But last month the court reversed course and said the [28-year-old] man should indeed face rape charges, though it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court".


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