France to Set Age of Consent to 15 After Child Sex Outrage

Women demonstrate to call for a legislative change to set a minimum legal age for sexual consent on Nov. 14 2017 in front of the Justice ministry in Paris

Unlike in many neighboring countries, French laws treat sex with minors as rape only in cases when prosecution manages to prove that the intercourse was forced - that coercion, threat, violence or surprise was used.

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa welcomed the move, which follows advice from doctors and legal experts.

The government's women's affairs office said Tuesday that it has made a decision to set the threshold at 15 in a bill to be presented to parliament later this month.

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In France, offenders who do not physically force or coerce their young targets are charged with sexual abuse rather than rape. She said a new law would be presented to Council of Ministers - France's equivalent of a cabinet - on March 21.

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. Below which it's always considered as a rape", she said in an interview.

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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She said: "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls, below which it's always considered as a rape".

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

In a similar case, also involving an 11-year-old girl, a man who was 28 at the time of the alleged offense faced lesser charges of sexual relations with a minor, but not rape.

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The law, once implemented, will set the age at which a person can not agree to any sexual intercourse at 15 and will criminalize any sexual activity with any minor younger than that age, had passed after public consultation and expert recommendation. The court subsequently did issue a charge of rape last month, with the trial pending as they ask it to move to a higher court.

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