Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa told reporters that "the government has decided to set the age at 15,” after widespread criticism broke out against the laws that allowed two men to escape rape charges following sexual misconduct with underage girls. According to France’s current laws, sex with a child younger than 15 years old can be criminalized only if it is proven that the act was forced. She said a new law would be presented to France's equivalent of a cabinet on March 21.
This means prosecutors have a hard time charging or convicting child molesters when the case involves preteens, who by France’s law were somehow able to consent to sex with adults. In one of the cases, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of raping an 11-year-old in November. The court came to the conclusion that she had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence, or surprise." In another case, a 28-year-old man was charged with "sex with a minor" after the court concluded that his 11-year-old victim was not forced to have sex.
Schiappa told reporters she was “very glad” that the government decided to formalize the age of consent, a move that she hopes will combat the prevalence of rape culture in France. "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls. Below which it's always considered as a rape," she told CNN.
When in effect, the law will criminalize all sexual activity with a minor younger than 15. Schiappa said a new law would be presented to France's equivalent of a cabinet on March 21.