Tuesday 22 May 2018

Sex with under-15s to be classed as rape as France tightens law

France’s Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa
France’s Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa

Henry Samuel

Adult sex with a minor under 15 will automatically be considered rape in France, the country's equality minister confirmed, after outrage over cases involving 11-year-old girls.

After public consultations and commissioning an expert report on the issue, "the government has decided to settle on the age of 15," said equality minister Marlène Schiappa.

Currently, adult sex with a minor aged under 15 is classified as sexual assault or molesting, punishable by up to five years in prison, compared with 20 years for rape.

Adults wielding some form of authority over the child face stiffer sentences.

However, the law does not automatically treat such cases as rape unless there is proof of force. The government promised change after uproar over ­rulings last autumn in which two 11-year-old girls were deemed not to have been raped by much older men because they had apparently agreed to sex.

In one case, a 30-year-old man was acquitted after the court determined the girl had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise". In the other, prosecutors initially decided the 28-year-old man should be tried for molesting the 11-year-old but not for rape, as there was no sign of resistance. A new inquiry into "rape of a 15-year-old" was opened last month.

France has long had a ­relatively laid-back attitude to relationships between teens and adults. Emmanuel Macron, the president, met his wife, Brigitte, when he was around 14 and she was 38 and a teacher at his college. The pair did not start dating until he was 16.

In December, Mr Macron said he would push for the age of sexual consent and the ­presumption of rape to both be set at 15, saying: "Our ­criminal law contains intolerable ­ambiguities."

There was considerable debate over the age beyond which sex with a minor should be considered rape, with some saying it should start at 13.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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