France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

Posted March 07, 2018

It would be a first for France, which does not now have an age of consent.

The proposed law has been suggested following two cases involving adult men who are accused of having sex with 11-year-old girls.

Macron pledged to push for an age of sexual consent in December, saying, "Our criminal law contains intolerable ambiguities. our entire society is sick with sexism".

According to laws that are now practiced in the country, prosecutors have to prove that any sexual relations with someone under the age of 15 was non-consensual in order to be convicted of rape.

When a conviction is successful, the punishment - a 20-year jail sentence - is much harsher than in cases where the victim is not a minor.

The issue of consent was brought to the spotlight after critics and lawmakers said French laws had allowed two adult men to escape charges after they were accused of sex with underage girls.

Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced the law change and said that it would be presented to the Council of Ministers on March 21, CNN reported.

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.

She said: "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls, below which it's always considered as a rape".

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

Schiappa told the news agency that she was "very glad" that the age limit decided by the government was 15. President Emmanuel Macron, among others, argued for it to be older.

The reform follows two cases of rape, one in November last year, when a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape of an 11-year-old girl after the court determined there was no evidence she was subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise". Although the court later admitted that the man should be charged for rape, it lingered make the ruling and asked to move the trial to a higher court.