France to set age of con­sent law

The Mercury News - - News -

PARIS >> Is a 13-year-old old enough to agree to sex with an adult? That’s a ques­tion France is ask­ing as the gov­ern­ment pre­pares to set a le­gal age for sex­ual con­sent for the first time.

Twice in re­cent weeks, French courts have re­fused to pros­e­cute men for rape af­ter they had sex with 11-year-old girls be­cause au­thor­i­ties couldn’t prove co­er­cion. Amid the pub­lic dis­be­lief over the sit­u­a­tion, the French gov­ern­ment is draft­ing a bill to say that sex with chil­dren un­der a cer­tain age is by def­i­ni­tion co­er­cive.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ni­cole Bel­lou­bet pro­voked con­ster­na­tion among fem­i­nist groups Mon­day by say­ing a le­gal min­i­mum age of 13 for sex­ual con­sent “is worth con­sid­er­ing.”

Ac­tivists staged a small protest Tues­day in cen­tral Paris to ar­gue that the age of con­sent should be set at

15. Protesters waved plac­ards that read “for him im­punity, for her a life sen­tence” in ref­er­ence to the re­cent cases.

“We want the law to guar­an­tee that be­fore 15 there can be no con­cept of con­sent,” prom­i­nent French fem­i­nist ac­tivist Caro­line de Haas said.

“I don’t know why (Bel­lou­bet) said it,” added Alice Col­let, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Col­lec­tive for Women’s

Rights. “It’s a sign of ig­no­rance of the is­sues.”

Estab­lish­ing a le­gal age of con­sent is one piece of a pend­ing bill to ad­dress sex­ual vi­o­lence and harassment in France.

French women have in­creas­ingly been speak­ing out online and to po­lice in re­cent weeks about past abuse, but no high-pro­file men in France have lost their jobs or suf­fered rep­u­ta­tional dam­age so far.

CHRISTOPHE ENA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A ac­tivist holds a ban­ner read­ing: “For him im­punity, for her a life sen­tence” dur­ing a protest in Paris on Tues­day.

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