The French government will set the minimum legal age of consent at 15 years old, a response to a contentious issue that has flared up in recent months following two cases of sexual abuse involving 11-year-old girls and their abusers, who many believe escaped their due punishment because of a shoddy law.
“The government has decided to set the age at 15,” France’s equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said on Monday about the measure, which will be included in a larger set of laws aimed at reducing sexual misconduct. Schiappa said she was “very glad” about the decision to set a solid legal age at 15, according to Agence-France Presse. She has been campaigning for gender equality since her appointment and has made criminalizing street harassment a top priority as well.
Public outrage has been brimming in recent months over two explosive sex abuse cases both involving 11-year-old girls. In one case, prosecutors initially declined to pursue rape charges against a 28-year-old man because, essentially, the girl didn’t resist enough. According to French law, sex that occurs without threats or violence is considered consensual — even when it occurs with children. But last month the court overturned that decision and said the suspect will face rape charges. And a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape when a court found that the 11-year-old girl he violated had not been subjected to “constraint, threat, violence or surprise.” Both cases have led to calls for the government to formally set a minimum age of consent at somewhere between 13 and 15 years of age, experts had recommended.
The new measures are expected to be approved within weeks.
Read the full story at Agence-France Press.