France plans to set legal age of sexual consent to 15

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A city view shows the French flag above the skyline of the French capital as the Eiffel Tower and roof tops are seen in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The government of France has put forward plans to set the age of consent for sex at 15 last Monday. This means that sexual intercourse with someone younger than 15 will be classified as rape.

Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa announced the plan, which is also supported by French President Emmanuel Macron. Agnès Buzyn, France’s Minister of Solidarity and Health said the decision would allow the French people to have a “collective awareness” of what is legal and illegal.

Currently, France does not have an age of consent, and prosecutors must prove that intercourse with someone under the age of 15 was forced in order to bring rape charges.

Under the existing laws, if there is no violence or coercion proved, offenders are only charged with sexual abuse of a minor instead of rape. The offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of around $87,000, while the rape of a minor has a much harsher punishment of 20 years imprisonment.

The move to set the age of consent comes following two prominent cases in which the accused escaped rape charges despite having sexual intercourse with 11-year-old girls.

In those cases, men of ages 28 and 30 had intercourse with 11-year-old girls. One did not get convicted of rape because it was not proven that he used physical force on the minor. The other was first charged only with sexual abuse before a court reversed the decision and said the offender would face rape charges.

The new legislation will be part of a batch of new laws that will be enacted to strengthen protections against sexual violence.

The age of consent varies across the world. In the United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, and Russia, 16 is the set age, while it is 14 in Germany, Italy, and Hungary.

In the United States, the age of consent varies depending on the state, but they are all between the age of 16 and 18.