France to change law after man cleared of raping 11-year-old in because 'relationship was consensual'

Equalities minister Marlene Schiappa says France needs a minimum age under which a child cannot consent to sexual activity like other European countries

Caroline Mortimer
Monday 13 November 2017 18:44 GMT
Under French law, the prosecution has to prove the child did not consent to get a conviction
Under French law, the prosecution has to prove the child did not consent to get a conviction (iStock)

France is poised to change its statutory rape laws after a man was acquitted of raping an 11-year-old after the prosecution was unable to prove it was not consensual.

Under French law, having sex with someone aged 15 or under is illegal but prosecutors have to prove it is non-consensual as there is no legal minimum age below which it is presumed in law that a child cannot consent.

But now equalities minister Marlene Schiappa wants a legal minimum age set at between 13 and 15-years-old.

She said: “The law will mean that ‘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’”.

She was speaking following the acquittal of a 29-year-old man in the Seine-et-Marne district of Paris who was accused of raping an 11-year-old in a park in 2009.

He was found not guilty by a jury as the prosecution could not prove the girl did not consent to the act.

It came after two days of hearings on what constitutes rape in French law which concluded that elements that constitute rape such as “coercion, threat, violence and surprise were not established”, according to public prosecutor Dominique Larens.

French newspaper, Le Parisien, reported that the prosecution launched an appeal on Friday.

The man, then 22, said he had sex with the girl in a park but it was consensual and the girl had told him she was 14 and would soon turn 15.

The girl’s family is only said to have discovered what had happened when the girl fell pregnant. The child, now seven, was placed in foster care.

It followed another case, which fell apart in September, against a 28-year-old man who said an 11-year-old girl had agreed to go back to his home from a park in Montmagny, another Parisian suburb.

He reportedly told her he would teach her how to kiss but when they arrived, they had sex, the Local reported.

The prosecution and the girl’s family argued that she had been “paralysed” by fear and “unable to defend herself” but he was only given the lesser charge of sexual abuse of a minor because he had not used physical force.

Children’s rights group, Le Voix de l’Enfant, has called for changes to the legal system.

In a statement following the first case, they said: “The question of consent or its absence should never even be asked when it comes to rape victims who are minors”.

In the UK, the age of consent is 16 and in court there is “an irrefutable presumption of an absence of consent” in such cases.

But those under 13 have additional legal protections which say they can never under any circumstances consent to sexual activity.

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