After public uproar over two child sex cases in France, France has set the legal age of consent at 15 in a win for sexual assault advocates.
France announced that it plans to make 15-years the legal age of consent for sex. While some might say 15 is too young, having any established legal age of consent is a first for France.
Prior to the new law, having sex with a child of any age was not automatically considered illegal. The sex was only illegal if it was considered forced. An adult could have sex with a ten-year-old as long as there were no threats of violence or attempts to restrain the child.
Child protection activists and lawmakers called for an age of consent to be introduced following recent sexual scandals involving minors in France. In two high-profile cases, adult men escaped rape charges after having sex with 11-year-old girls.
In November last year in France, a 30-year-old man was found not guilty of rape after it was concluded that the 11-year-old girl in question was not under “constraint, threat, violence or surprise.”
In another recent case which caused outrage in France, a 29-year-old man stood trial for sexual assault in a Paris court for having sex with an 11-year-old girl. Prosecutors said that the sex was “consensual” but the court later ruled that the man should be tried for rape and that the case should be sent to a higher court.
Some officials had suggested that France’s legal age of consent be set at 13 while other lawmakers suggested that it should be 15. The U.S. has a legal age of consent that varies between 16 and 18 depending on the state. In the U.S. other factors are also considered in determining consent including the age of both partners.
The new legislation will be presented to lawmakers later on this month and is part of a group of new measures which the government is introducing to curb sexual violence, gender-based discrimination and harassment.
With the new law, if adults engage in sex with a child under the age of 15, they can be prosecuted for a sexual offense and sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison. The more serious charge of aggravated sexual assault or rape still requires proof of violence or coercion, regardless of the age. Rape or sexual assault carries a much longer sentence of 20 years or more.