France to set age of sexual consent at 15 after rape outcry

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PARIS – France’s government has proposed setting a formal age of sexual consent after two-high profile cases involving 11-year-old girls, according to the country’s Equality Minister.

Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said the government “has decided to set the age at 15,” after consultations with the public and an expert panel. She said a new law would be presented to Council of Ministers — France’s equivalent of a cabinet — on March 21.

In France, current laws criminalize sex with children under the age of 15 but prosecutors must prove that the sexual act was forced.

Two cases involving the 11-year-old girls provoked outrage in France after the alleged perpetrators were acquitted of rape.

In November a 30-year-old man was cleared of rape after the court found that the victim had not been subjected to “constraint, threat, violence or surprise.”

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 to French news agency AFP.

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 October 2017, she told CNN that she wanted to address rape culture.

“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,” she said in an interview.

The law, once implemented, will set the age at which a person cannot agree to any sexual intercourse at 15 and will criminalize any sexual activity with any minor younger than that age.