French Law Says Children Over Five Can Consent To Sex — Nigeria Today
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French Law Says Children Over Five Can Consent To Sex

The topic of sexual consent in France is at the forefront of social justice debates across the country, all thanks to the #MeToo – or #BalanceTonPorc – campaign.

This week, another debate was rekindled when a 29-year-old man went on trial for having sex with an 11-year-old.

You see, unlike many other countries, France “does not have a legal age under which a minor cannot agree to a sexual relationship,” reports ABC News.

What that means is, despite having an “age of consent” set at 15, France currently does not have any law which defines sex with someone below a fixed age as rape, reports BBC:

Currently in France if there is no violence or coercion proved, people may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not rape – this has a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£66,000; $87,000).

However, the country’s top court has ruled that children aged five and under cannot consent.

Back to the case: In court, lawyers for the suspect argued that the 11-year-old girl was consenting and aware of what she was doing, while the other side argued that the girl was “simply too young and confused to resist”.

And the prosecutor’s decision shocked many:

[T]he prosecutor’s office in the town of Pontoise decided to put the man on trial not for rape but for charges of “sexual abuse of a minor under 15.”

Defense lawyers say the man and the girl met in a park and the girl voluntarily followed him to an apartment and consented to have sex. They’ve also claim their client, then 28, thought she was over 15.

Although the girl’s family filed a complaint for rape, prosecutors apparently felt the suspect did not use violence or coercion.

Of course, children’s rights groups and a psychiatrist testifying in the case argued otherwise, and the decision was overturned:

The presiding judge said the prosecutor chose a wrong charge and ordered the case to be sent back to investigators for a thorough investigation. As a result, the trial was postponed.

“It’s a victory,” Carine Diebolt, the lawyer for the family, told reporters after the trial. “The main thing is that (the girl) can at last be heard as a victim of rape … we can say it’s a victory for the victims.”

The Montmagny case is one of several that have prompted an uproar over France’s rules on child sex abusers, which are considered too lax by child rights groups and feminists:

A similar recent case caused disbelief and outrage. A French criminal court in November acquitted a 30-year-old man accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in 2009. The jury in the Paris suburban region of Seine-et-Marne found that he didn’t use violence or coercion.

As a result, French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has “proposed a bill to introduce a minimum legal age for sexual consent for the first time”, which includes a provision saying that sex with children under a certain age is, by definition, coercive:

The proposed minimum age hasn’t yet been decided on, but the cutoff could be between 13 and 15. The bill, a broad-based measure aimed at fighting “sexual and sexist violence,” is expected to be presented to the French Cabinet next month.

Here’s a handy map to help you out with the age of consent, or you can click here.


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