France Aiming to Adjust Age of Sexual Consent

By Aishwarya Rai, International News Editor

France has shown signs of working out changes for the laws on sexual consent, based on two cases where men were acquitted of raping two 11 year old girls, according to BBC. Marlene Schiappa, France’s minister for gender equality is aiming to set an age below which sex is automatically considered a serious offense; currently, the age of consent in France is 15, but sex below this age still requires prosecutors to prove it was non-consensual to constitute as rape. The debate is between ages 13 and 15 and is part of a new anti-sexism and sexual violence bill that is to be introduced in 2018. The global tendency for the age of consent is 16.

One of the cases that sparked this debate occurred in 2009 in Seine-et-Marne, where a 30-year-old man had been cleared of rape after having sex with an 11-year-old girl when he was 22. The girl reportedly had a child who is now seven and is in foster care; the girl’s family is considered to have only found out after she became pregnant. The man’s defense against the rape charges were that “the girl had lied about her age to him,” according to BBC. With no evidence on threat or violence, the criminal court trying the case ruled that the man could not be convicted or charged for rape.

The second case occurred in September, when a 28-year-old man had also been cleared for having sex with an 11-year-old girl from Val-d’Oise. Prosecutors found that there had been “no violence, no constraint, no threat, and no surprise” which would deem it to be rape. Hence, the court determined that the girl had consented.

In the US, the age of consent ranges from 16-18 across states. In the UK, it is 16, and there are additional protections for 13 year olds that deem that they can never consent to sexual activity. Germany and Portugal, on the other hand, have a lower age of consent at 14. Marlene Schiappa is working on bettering the clause that states that with no violence or coercion, such incidents can only amount to sexual abuse and not rape; it doesn’t take care of rapists in a just manner as the charge for sexual assault is much less than that for rape.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 21st print edition.

Contact Aishwarya at

aishwarya.rai@student.shu.edu

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