France To Change Age Of Consent To 15 Following Rape Uproar

Once approved by Parliament, the new law is expected to go into effect within the next few weeks as part of a broader package of laws aimed at reducing sexual violence and harassment. Current legislation criminalises sex with a child under the age of 15-years-old, but with the caveat that prosecutors must also prove that the sexual act was forced.

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.

It would be a first for France, which does not now have an age of consent.

When a conviction is successful, the punishment - a 20-year jail sentence - is much harsher than in cases where the victim is not a minor.

In the other case, charges against a 28-year-old man, also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl, were downgraded to "sexual relations with a minor", according toFrench news agency AFP.

France plans to fix the legal age of sexual consent as 15, meaning sex with someone younger than that would be considered rape.

The reform follows two cases of rape, one in November last year, when a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape of an 11-year-old girl after the court determined there was no evidence she was subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".

Minister of Solidarity and Health Agnès Buzyn said setting a legal age of sexual consent would allow a "collective awareness" and that everyone would see what was "legal and illegal", Le Figaro newspaper reports (in French).

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.

If the child is under 15 years of age, the new law will put the onus on the adult to prove the minor gave consent, instead of expecting the victim to prove they were threatened, coerced, or surprised.

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

President Emmanuel Macron pushed for an age of consent of 15, rather than 13.

  • Joey Payne