France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

Mar 07, 2018, 06:50
France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

The reform on Tuesday comes following two recent cases where men avoided rape charges despite having sex with 11-year-old girls.

France plans to fix the legal age of sexual consent as 15, meaning sex with someone younger than that would be considered rape.

It would be the first such law in France, which now does not have a rule saying a child under a certain age is considered incapable of consenting to sex.

The move was welcomed by France's equality minister, Marlène Schiappa.

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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.

Sexual abuse of a minor carries at most five years in prison and a fine equivalent to $93,000 in the US, while rape of a minor carries 20 years imprisonment.

In a report delivered to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, the group of lawyers, legal practitioners, doctors and childcare professionals stated this age "does not seem excessive in view of the double imperative to strengthen the protection of minors from sexual offenses and to clearly prohibit sexual abuse".

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.

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Schiappa told AFP news agency that she was "very glad" that the higher age was chosen.

In November, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of raping an 11-year-old girl because the court said there had been "no violence, coercion, threat or surprise".

The law is part of other legislation to combat sexual violence and harassment, including a longer statute of limitations to allow child victims more time to come forward, Newsweek reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said he favors setting the limit at 15 years. According to CNN, the charges another rape case involving a 28-year-old and an 11-year-old were dropped to "sexual relations with a minor".

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The case has now been moved up to a higher court and the accused man will stand trial for rape.

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