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French officials moving toward setting age for sexual consent at 15

French officials moving toward setting age for sexual consent at 15
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The French government on Tuesday announced an effort to set the country’s age of sexual consent at 15, a move proponents hope will make it easier to punish perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse. 

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti announced in a press release Tuesday that the government is moving forward with putting in place “a clear prohibition by criminalizing any act of sexual penetration committed by an adult on a 15-year-old minor and by defining a new crime.”

France’s current law bans sexual relations between an adult and a minor under 15, though it implies that someone under the age of 15 is able to consent, according to The Associated Press

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The current law can thus lead to situations in which someone may be prosecuted for sexual assault instead of rape, leading to a lighter prison sentence. 

Dupond-Moretti during an appearance on France-2 television Tuesday reportedly said that with an official age of consent in the country, any “act of sexual penetration by an adult on a minor under 15 will be considered a rape.” 

A Justice Ministry spokesperson told Politico’s Playbook Paris that the legislative changes will likely be implemented “over the three next months” through amendments to a bill on sexual violence already passed in the French Senate. 

The plans come after French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronMacron urges US, EU to share vaccine doses Biden to champion alliances, democracy as he meets with foreign partners Overnight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq MORE late last month instructed Dupond-Moretti and Adrien Taquet, secretary of state for child protection, to look into ways to revise French law so that it more effectively protects minors who are victims of sexual violence, according to Tuesday’s press release. 

The AP reported that the Justice Ministry is also working with survivors’ groups to develop harsher punishments for those convicted of incestuous abuse, as well as extending or potentially abolishing the statute of limitations on acts of sexual violence against children. 

Under current French law, citizens are allowed to file complaints of sex abuse experienced as a minor until they reach the age of 48. 

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The ministry added Tuesday that it also hopes “to ensure that victims of the same perpetrator do not receive different legal treatment.” 

Several survivor groups and other organizations that seek to bring awareness to child sex crimes praised the Justice Ministry’s announcement Tuesday. 

According to the AP, Fatima Benomar, whose organization Les Effrontees has advocated for tougher sentences for sexual abusers of children, said, “It’s very good that there is this revived debate, that there is an idea of a minimum age [of consent]. ... This will make adults more responsible.”