France To Set Legal Age Of Sexual Consent To 15 Years Old
The move was welcomed by Equality Minister, Marlène Schiappa
France is set to fix the legal ages of sexual consent to 15 years old, which means that anyone that has sex with a person below that age would be considered rape.
The move was welcomed by Equality Minister, Marlène Schiappa, who followed the advice from legal experts and doctors.
Under the current laws, prosecutors in France must prove that sex with someone under 15 was forced in order to bring rape charges.
The change has come following two recent cases of men accused of engaging in sexual activity with 11-year-old girls.
BBC reports: Under the existing legislation if there is no violence or coercion proved, offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not rape. This has a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£66,000; $87,000).
Sentences are the same for sexual assaults of minors and non-minors, but rape convictions carry much harsher punishments.
The government is to approve the new age limit as part of a package of other laws against sexual violence and harassment in the coming weeks.
It had been discussing whether to set the age as 13 or 15, which is what groups fighting violence against children had campaigned for.
Ms Schiappa told AFP news agency that she was "very glad" that the higher age was chosen. The limit is also supported by President Emmanuel Macron.
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).
President Macron has expressed support to setting 15 as the age of consent
Last November, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape after a court determined his 11-year-old victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".
In another case, a court initially said a 28-year-old man should face charges of sexual assault, and not rape, after saying the victim was not physically forced to have sex.
But the same court reversed its decision last month, saying the accused should indeed face rape charges.
Legislation varies across Europe, with countries setting different legal ages of consent:
14 years old: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal
15: Greece, Poland, Sweden
16: Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia