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France makes sex with under-15 girl a crime punishable by up to 20-yr jail

PARIS: The French parliament has passed a legislation designating sex with a child under the age of 15 as rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison taking the country’s criminal code closer to that of many other Western countries.

Sex between an adult and a child under the age of 15 was still illegal, but it could only be charged as rape if the minor was coerced by violence, constraint or surprise. It was charged as a ‘sexual act on a minor’ though there was no evidence of coercion.

“This is a landmark law for our children and community,” said the justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti to the National Assembly.

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According to sources, a child under the age of 15 would not be able to demand the consent of an adult aggressor.

The bill received unanimous support at its final reading, according to the Assembly’s Twitter account.
Some lawmakers were concerned that lowering the age at which sex was automatically considered rape would criminalise a consensual sexual relationship between a minor and an individual only a few years older.

As a result, a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ clause was added to the law, allowing minors to have sexual intercourse with adults up to the age of five. In cases of sexual harassment, the rule may not apply.

Incestuous sex with a minor under the age of 18 is often considered rape under the law.

Sexual violence against women and children in the upper echelons of power and within celebrity circles went undetected or undeclared for years in a country that has long coveted its self-image as the land of seduction and romance.

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However, in recent years there has been a lot of soul-searching.

The #MeToo movement, which swept the globe after a number of women accused US movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in 2017 was a watershed moment in France. In 2020, a French writer who had written publicly about his pedophilia also fell from grace.

Cat-callers and overtly lecherous individuals could face possible on-the-spot fines in France which had already toughened its sex crimes laws in 2018, when it banned sexual harassment on the streets.

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