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France to present first statutory rape law

March 6, 2018

The proposed law comes after two cases of adult men who had sex with 11-year-old girls shocked France. Currently, sex acts with someone under 15 years of age are illegal but it must be proved that they were forced.

An illustration on the theme of domestic violence showing a woman's hands
Image: picture-alliance/PIXSELL/Puklavec

The French government on Tuesday announced plans for a new law that would prevent someone under the age of 15 consenting to sex.

It would be the first law of its kind in France, where there is currently no law that states a child below a certain age is considered incapable of consenting to sex.

Read more: Germany redefines rape: A survey of international laws

The measure is part of a proposed bill against sexual and gender-based violence, which will be presented to parliament on March 21. The current age of consent in France is 15.

Sexual acts with a child under the age of 15 are illegal under French law but to charge an offender with rape it must be proved that sex was forced.

Read moreSexual abuse experienced by one-in-seven young Germans, researchers find

Officials had previously mulled setting the age at 13, but some, including President Emmanuel Macron, had argued for it to be older.

Two landmark cases 

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

In one case a man was charged with sexual assault and not rape because the victim was considered to have consented and in another case a man accused of raping an 11-year-old was acquitted.

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France's Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa said the government had decided to keep the age of consent at 15 following a citizens' consultation and the findings of an expert report.

Change to rape and sexual offense laws

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.

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."

The experts said that based on neuroscientific research: "the teenager deserves, until the age of 15, 16, enhanced protection because of the deep traces caused by sexual trauma on the structure and functioning of the brain."

law/jm (AFP, AP)