France to set the legal age for sexual consent at 15

France to set the legal age for sexual consent at 15

Current laws in France criminalize sex with children under the age of 15.

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". The move by France follows advice from doctors and legal experts. In order for a rape charge to be handed down, prosecutors must prove without a doubt that the sexual act was forced.

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.

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

Under existing laws, if violence and force can't be proven, offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not with rape. However, adult sex with a minor younger than 15 is classified as sexual assault or molesting, punishable by up to five years in prison, compared with 20 years in prison for rape.

"The Bill will contain a clause stating an age limit below which it will always be deemed that a child was forced", Schiappa said, supporting the reform.

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French President Emmanuel Macron also said he favors setting the limit at 15 years.

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.

"We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls".

The change is part of a wider law "against sexist and sexual violence" that will be presented to the council of ministers on March 21.

"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".

But the same court reversed its decision last month, saying the accused should face rape charges.

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