06/03/2018 14:03 GMT | Updated 06/03/2018 14:05 GMT

France To Fix Legal Age Of Consent At 15 After Rape Acquittals Outrage

Currently prosecutors must prove sex was non-consensual in order to secure a rape conviction.

France will fix the legal age of consent at 15, meaning sex with anyone younger is automatically considered rape.

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

The reform on Tuesday comes following two recent cases where men avoided rape charges despite having sex with 11-year-old girls.

Last year, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape after a court decided that an 11-year-old he had sex with was not subjected to “constraint, threat, violence or surprise”.

The move was welcomed by France’s equality minister, Marlène Schiappa. She said she was “very glad” the government had chosen 15, as recommended by doctors and legal experts, an age long called for by associations fighting violence against children.

Schiappa confirmed: “The bill will contain a clause stating an age limit below which it will always be deemed that a child was forced.”

Aurelien Meunier via Getty Images
Marlene Schiappa.

Current French law defines rape as sexual penetration committed “by violence, coercion, threat or surprise”. In order to charge an offender with rape, prosecutors must prove the sex was forced.

In a separate case, a 29-year-old man was originally told he should not face charges of rape because there was no evidence the 11-year-old was coerced. He was instead charged with a crime carrying the light sentence of sexual relations with a minor.

The move enraged the child’s family and a court later reversed decision, the Guardian reported at the time. 

The new law will be presented to the Council of Ministers - France’s equivalent of a cabinet - later this month.

In October, Schiappa told CNN that she urgently 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.