The French government has agreed to set the age of sexual consent at 15 years old after public fury over two cases involving girls as young as 11. Since France now lacks an age of consent, one can only be charged for forcible rape.
This new law will effectively create a new threshold, which will criminalize sexual activity with a minor under 15, as well as a legal assumption that the child was coerced.
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".
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.
France has long had a relatively laid-back attitude to relationships between teens and adults. The two started dating when he was 16. Prosecutors must have to prove that the sexual encounter was forced before it can bring rape charges against the offenders as rape conviction carries a much harsher punishments.
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Marlene Schiappa, the Equality Minister, announced on Monday, March 6, 2018 that the age of consent will be fifteen.
The new age limit, part of a package of laws aimed at curbing sexual violence and sexism, is to be approved by the government in the coming weeks.
Reporting in December, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley said, "Another very recent case saw a middle school teacher get an eight-month suspended sentence after having a relationship with his 13-year-old student". In addressing rape culture, she told CNN, "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls".
Schiappa said that the French President wanted to set the age of consent at 15 and she "had expressed the same preference on many occasions".
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".