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France Proposes Setting 15 as Legal Age of Sexual Consent


FILE - The Pontoise palace of justice is pictured in Pontoise, outside Paris, Feb.13, 2018.

The French government has proposed a law to set 15 as the age of consent for sex following two high-profile cases in which men escaped rape convictions despite having intercourse with 11-year-old girls.

France currently has no age of consent. However, adult sex with a minor younger than 15 is classified as sexual assault or molesting, punishable by up to five years in prison, compared with 20 years in prison for rape. In order for an incident to qualify as rape, prosecutors have to prove the victim was forced.

In November, a 30-year-old man was cleared of rape after the court found that the victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise."

In the other case, charges against a 28-year-old man, also accused of raping an 11-year-old girl, were downgraded to "sexual relations with a minor."

France has long had a relatively laid-back attitude to relationships between teens and adults. President Emmanuel Macron met his future wife, Brigitte, when he was around 14 and she was 38 and a teacher at his school. The two started dating when he was 16.

In December, 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."

Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said the government "has decided to set the age at 15," after consultations with the public and an expert panel.

The change is part of a wider law "against sexist and sexual violence" that will be presented to the council of ministers on March 21.

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