France to reassess child sex laws

BBC:-France is to consider a change to its laws around sexual consent, according to the minister for gender equality.

Marlene Schiappa said the government was considering setting a fixed age below which sex was automatically a serious offence.

It comes after two cases where men were acquitted of raping two 11 year old girls.

In France the age of consent is 15, but prosecutors still have to prove sex was non-consensual to prove rape.

In an interview with French television programme BFM Politique, Ms Schiappa said that as a member of the government she “could not react to court decisions”.

But Ms Schiappa added she was looking at measures where “below a certain age…that there is no debate on the sexual consent of the child”.

Despite its age of consent, France currently does not have any law which defines sex with someone below a fixed age as rape.

Currently in France if there is no violence or coercion proved, people may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not rape – this has a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£66,000; $87,000).

Sentences are the same for sexual assaults of minors and non-minors, but punishments for rape have much harsher sentences.

Ms Schiappa said her government was debating a defined age for irrefutable non-consent, between 13 and 15, as part of a new anti-sexism and sexual violence bill to be introduced in 2018.

A public prosecutor said on Saturday that a 30-year-old man had been acquitted of rape after having sex with an 11-year-old girl in Seine-et-Marne in 2009 when he was 22.

The girl’s family reportedly only found out about the incident after the girl became pregnant. Her child is now seven and is reportedly in foster care.

Local reports said the man’s defence was that the girl had lied about her age to him. Because there was no evidence of “threat or violence” a criminal court ruled that the man could not be charged with raping her.

It closely resembles a case in September which also prompted calls to change the law.

A 28-year-old man was acquitted when he was tried for having sex with an 11-year-old girl from Val-d’Oise, north of Paris. She reportedly followed the man home from a park, but prosecutors said there had been “no violence, no constraint, no threat, and no surprise” to constitute a rape charge – the court therefore ruled she had consented.

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