French minister calls for new laws after acquittals in underage rape cases

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Nov. 13, 2017 at 10:15 AM
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Nov. 13 (UPI) -- France is considering new laws on sexual consent after two men were acquitted of raping girls, each 11, the French minister for gender equality said.

A French court acquitted a man, 28, last week, after it was determined that his sexual relationship with a girl, 11, was consensual. Testimony indicated he met her in a park in Montmagny, near Paris, promised to teach her to kiss and later had sexual relations with her in his apartment. Public prosecutor Dominique Laurens said the elements of rape, "coercion, threat, violence and surprise, were not established" in court.

Another public prosecutor said on Saturday that a man, 30, was acquitted of rape after a girl, 11, became pregnant. There was no evidence of "threat or violence" in the 2009 incident Seine-et-Marne, a Paris suburb, a court ruled, so a charge of rape could not be established.

Marlene Schiappa, France's equalities minister, said that as a government minister, she could not comment on judicial decisions, but she was considering legislation by which "below a certain age, there can be no debate, ever, on the sexual consent of a child, and that any child below a certain age would automatically be considered as raped or sexually assaulted."

France's age of consent is 15, but there's no law defining sex involving anyone below a defined age as rape. Without proof of coercion or violence, France only has laws against sexual abuse of a minor. The penalty is identical to the same crime against adults.

Schiappa said the government is is debating a defined age for irrefutable non-consent, and will be part of an anti-sexism and sexual violence bill to be proposed in 2018.

Advocacy groups in France have called for a fixed legal age under which sexual consent is not presumed. The organization Le Voix de l'Enfant said in a statement that "The question of consent or its absence should never even be asked when it comes to rape victims who are minors."

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