French lawmakers have determined that 15 will be the new age of consent in the country, following two high-profile child abuse cases.
Sex with children under 15 will be prosecuted as rape, irrespective of ‘consent’.
Previously, sex with children could be prosecuted as a sexual offence but not as rape unless evidence of “constraint, threat, violence or surprise” was proven.
The maximum sentence for sexual relations with a minor is just 5 years prison time and a €75,000 fine.
Public outrage followed the recent acquittal of a man accused of raping an eleven-year-old girl.
In a similar case a man faced the less serious charge of sexual relations with a minor, despite also having sex with an eleven-year-old.
In response, the French Government held public consultations and also consulted with experts before deciding to set a clear age of consent at 15.
French Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa said she was “very glad” about the decision.
The new French law will give more protection to 13 and 14-year-olds than UK law.
In the UK, having sex with a child under 13 is automatically treated as rape. For 13 to 15-year-old victims where absence of consent cannot be proven, the offence is sexual activity with a child, which carries a lower sentence.
An audit carried out by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2016 found “examples of children aged 12 receiving contraception without a referral being made” on safeguarding grounds.
And a 2015 review of failures to protect children in Oxfordshire recommended that, “Relevant government departments should consider the impact of current guidance on consent”.
This should be done so that “attitudes to underage sex” do not make it easier for abusers to succeed.