France to set the legal age for sexual consent at 15

French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa

French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa

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

France is set to fix the legal age of consent at 15 following a public outcry over recent cases involving 11-year-old girls.

In France, current laws criminalize sex with children under the age of 15 but prosecutors must prove that the sexual act was forced. However, this will change alongside the bill that is being proposed.

In the United Kingdom the age of sexual consent is 16, but children under the age of 13 have additional legal protections that declare they can never consent to sexual activity.

Lawmakers are hoping that this proposal will be given the go-ahead in the French legal system, and help decrease sexual violence throughout the country.

Under other legal codes (including that of the United States), "forcible rape" is defined as someone forcing another into having sex against their will, while "statutory rape" is sex with someone who may have been willing, but who is not considered qualified to give legal consent because of age.

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Once approved by Parliament, the new law is expected to go into effect within the next few weeks as part of a broader package of laws aimed at reducing sexual violence and harassment.

Last year, a 30-year-old man escaped rape charges after a court found that his 11-year-old victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise" (The Guardian).

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".

Seven experts assigned by the government in February recommended the threshold and advocated for two new rape and sexual consent offenses whereby cases involving sexual relations with a person below 15 years of age would be considered an offense. Once implemented it will criminalize any sexual conduct with any minor under that age.

Although the age of consent is now set at 15, prosecutors have to prove in court that it was non-consensual in order to secure a rape conviction.

But last month, the same court reversed its decision, saying the accused should indeed face rape charges - though it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court.

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