France’s Government wants to set the age of sexual consent at 15 and make it easier to punish long-ago child sexual abuse, amid growing public pressure and a wave of online testimonies about rape and other sexual violence by parents and authority figures.
Calling such treatment of children “intolerable,” the justice ministry said in a statement that “the government is determined to act quickly to implement the changes that our society expects.”
“An act of sexual penetration by an adult on a minor under 15 will be considered a rape,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said Tuesday on France-2 television. Consent would no longer be able to be cited to diminish the charges, but exceptions would be made for teenagers having consensual sex, he said.
The change would still need to be enshrined in law, but the announcement is a major step after years of efforts to toughen French protection for children victims of rape and sexual violence. A push to set France’s first age of consent 3 years ago in the wake of the global #MeToo movement failed amid legal complications. But the effort has gained new momentum since accusations emerged last month of incestuous sexual abuse involving a prominent French political expert, Olivier Duhamel. That unleashed an online #MeTooInceste movement in France that led to hundreds of similar testimonies.