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France To Make 15 Legal Age Of Consent For Sex

07 March 2018

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

In November 2017, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape after a court determined his 11-year-old victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa welcomed the move, which follows advice from doctors and legal experts.

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa told reporters that "the government has made a decision to set the age at 15", after widespread criticism broke out against the laws that allowed two men to escape rape charges following sexual misconduct with underage girls.

The new laws will be presented to the Council of Ministers, France's equivalent of a cabinet, later in March, reports say.

Seven experts assigned by the government in February recommended the threshold and advocated for two new rape and sexual consent offenses whereby cases involving sexual relations with a person below 15 years of age would be considered an offense.

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Schiappa told reporters she was "very glad" that the government chose to formalize the age of consent, a move that she hopes will combat the prevalence of rape culture in France. Instead, the men were charged with sexual abuse of a minor, a lesser charge.

In the United Kingdom there are also additional laws stating that children under the age of 13 can never consent to sexual activity.

In another case, a court initially said a 28-year-old man should face charges of sexual assault, and not rape, after saying the victim was "not physically forced to have sex". The limit is also supported by President Emmanuel Macron.

Outcry over the latest cases led to calls for an age to be set below which all sex is seen as non-consenting and therefore rape (this is 13 in the UK). The court subsequently did issue a charge of rape last month, with the trial pending as they ask it to move to a higher court.

The new age limit is part of a series of laws aimed at combating sexual violence and sexism, which will be approved by the French government later this month.

France To Make 15 Legal Age Of Consent For Sex