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Amid public pressure to prosecute sexual abuse of children, France might set its age of consent for the first time. According to CBS News, the head of the country’s Justice Ministry announced that they would push to pass an age of consent of 15.
Previously, French defendants accused of sexual assault of a minor could cite consent as a way to lessen their sentencing. Though sex with anyone under the age of 15 is illegal, the lack of an age of consent could be used as a way around harsh punishments. French officials are looking to draw a hard line beyond which all sexual activity will be considered non-consensual.
“An act of sexual penetration by an adult on a minor under 15 will be considered a rape,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said on France-2 television on February 9.
Previous efforts to set the age of consent in France have failed. A recent scandal accusing former European Parliament member and prominent political scientist Olivier Duhamel of incest have reignited the campaign. Duhamel’s stepdaughter accused him of abusing her and her twin brother when they were children. After the story broke, French people began sharing their own stories under the hashtag #MeTooInceste.
France is also looking to remove the statute of limitations on prosecuting perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse. The current law states that cases can be brought until the victim is 48 years old. Advocates argue that the long timeline of coming to grips with childhood sexual trauma should take precedence over the typical time limits on criminal accusations.