France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

France's government is to set the age of sexual consent at 15, after a public outcry over two cases of sex involving 11-year-olds

A demonstration calling for an age of consent in Paris last November. (Photo: Metro)
A demonstration calling for an age of consent in Paris last November. (Photo: Metro)

France’s government plans on setting a formal age of sexual consent after a public outcry over two cases of sex involving 11-year-old girls, equality minister Marlène Schiappa said on Monday.

After public consultations and the recommendation of a panel of experts, “the government has decided to set the age at 15”, Schiappa told AFP.

In France, current laws criminalise sex with children under the age of 15, but prosecutors must prove that the sexual act was forced.

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

In November a 30-year-old man was cleared of rape after the court found that the victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise."

In the other case, charges against a 28-year-old man, also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl, were downgraded to "sexual relations with a minor," according to the AFP report.

But last month the court reversed course and said the man should indeed face rape charges, though it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court.

Since then lawmakers and child-protection groups have been urging the government to set a minimum age of consent, as is the case in many European countries, with suggested ages ranging from 13 to 15.

Schiappa said she was “very glad” that the government had chosen 15, as recommended by a panel of doctors and legal experts, an age long sought by associations fighting violence against children.

The new age limit, part of a package of laws aimed at curbing sexual violence and sexism, is to be approved by the government in the coming weeks.

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