France wants to set 15 as minimum age for sexual consent

Any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence under current French law

Any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence under current French law

According to laws that are now practiced in the country, prosecutors have to prove that any sexual relations with someone under the age of 15 was non-consensual in order to be convicted of rape.

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa welcomed the move, which follows advice from doctors and legal experts.

France's Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa has announced that the government has made a decision to set the age of consent at 15. In order for an incident to qualify as rape, prosecutors have to prove the victim was forced. She said a new law would be presented to France's equivalent of a cabinet on March 21.

As The New York Times explains, "In France, as long as "violence, coercion, threat or surprise" is not proven, sexual intercourse with a minor - even one under 15 - is considered an atteinte sexuelle, which is an infraction and not a crime".

The victim in that case was also an 11-year-old girl.

Schiappa told the news agency that she was "very glad" that the age limit decided by the government was 15.

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"We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls".

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

The law, once implemented, will set the age at which a person can not agree to any sexual intercourse at 15 and will criminalize any sexual activity with any minor younger than that age.

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

The case has now been moved up to a higher court and the accused man will stand trial for rape. The limit is also supported by President Emmanuel Macron.

Under other legal codes (including that of the United States), "forcible rape" is defined as someone forcing another into having sex against their will, while "statutory rape" is sex with someone who may have been willing, but who is not considered qualified to give legal consent because of age.

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