France to set age of sexual consent after rape outcry

France sets legal age of sexual consent at 15 after child sex outrage

Minister of Solidarity and Health Agnes 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 reported.

It would be the first such law in France, which now does not have a rule saying a child under a certain age is considered incapable of consenting to sex.

France's Equality Minister Marlene Shippa admits that "I think we must reaffirm the existing law that sets the age of sexual majority at 15, and make sure that there are trials for rape and not for sex assault".

Lawmakers hope the proposal, which is part of a bill aimed at reducing sexual violence will be implemented in the coming weeks, AFP reports.

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa told reporters that "the government has made a decision to set the age at 15", after widespread criticism broke out against the laws that allowed two men to escape rape charges following sexual misconduct with underage girls.

Under existing French law, prosecutors must prove a sexual act was forced in order to bring charges of rape in cases where the victim is aged 15 or younger.

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In two recent separate legal cases, adult men were accused of having sex with 11-year-old girls, who were considered consenting under French law. Instead, the men were charged with sexual abuse of a minor, a lesser charge. "Below which it's always considered as a rape", she said in an interview.

A debate over the age of sexual consent has been ongoing for several months now, with some suggesting it be lowered to 13.

A 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape after a court ruled his 11-year-old victim had not been subjectde to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".

Schiappa said she was "very glad" that the government had chosen 15, as recommended by a panel of doctors and legal experts, an age long sought by associations fighting violence against children.

Other groups had also joined the call for the French legal system to introduce a legal age under which sexual consent is never presumed. President Emmanuel Macron also supports the limit.

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