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France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

07 March 2018

Current laws in France criminalize sex with children under the age of 15 but prosecutors must prove that the sexual act was forced, the BBC reported.

(This resulted in a pregnancy, with the child now in foster care.) The court ruled that she had not been subject to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise", and thus did not fit the legal definition of rape.

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

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

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Two cases involving the 11-year-old girls provoked outrage in France after the alleged perpetrators were acquitted of rape. Instead, the men were charged with sexual abuse of a minor, a lesser charge.

The new plans are to change the legal age of sexual consent to 15-years-old, meaning that any sex between an adult and a child of under 15 will be considered rape.

Schiappa told reporters she was "very glad" that the government made a decision to formalize the age of consent, a move that she hopes will combat the prevalence of rape culture in France.

The new requirement is expected go into effect following government approval of a package of sexual violence and gender discrimination laws in the coming weeks.

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The new law would create a threshold, said Schiappa, according to which any sexual activity with a child under the age of 15 will be criminalized and it would be considered the child was coerced.

It had been discussing whether to set the age as 13 or 15, which is what groups fighting violence against children had campaigned for.

And in another case, a 28-year-old man faced charges of sexual relations with a minor and not rape - but this decision was reversed last month and the court said he should face rape charges.

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

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

France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry