France to Set Age of Consent to 15 After Child Sex Outrage


French officials will create a legal age of consent, changing the country's law to classify sex with someone younger than 15 as rape, regardless of whether physical force is used.

In one of the cases, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of raping an 11-year-old in November. The move by France follows advice from doctors and legal experts.

The government's women's affairs office said Tuesday that it has made a decision to set the threshold at 15 in a bill to be presented to parliament later this month. The defendants in those cases dodged harsh punishments because prosecutors could not prove the victims were physically forced to engage in the acts. She said a new law would be presented to Council of Ministers - France's equivalent of a cabinet - on March 21.

Under the existing legislation, if there is no violence or coercion proved, offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not rape.

Another case caused outcry after a 28-year-old man was tried for the offence of having sexual relations with a minor rather than rape.

Schiappa told AFP news agency that she was "very glad" that the higher age was chosen. President Emmanuel Macron, among others, argued for it to be older. "Below which it's always considered as a rape", she said.

More news: Kabul auto bomb attack: Two Australian nationals wounded says Julie Bishop

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.

The issue was brought to the fore after critics and lawmakers said French laws had allowed two men to escape rape charges when they were accused of sex with underage girls.

She said: "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".

"Since then lawmakers and child-protection groups have been urging the government to set a minimum age of consent, as is the case in many European countries, with suggested ages ranging from 13 to 15".

The case has now been moved up to a higher court and the accused man will stand trial for rape.