As France faces up to several high profile cases of child sexual abuse, there are calls to change the law in this area. But is it true that there is no official age of consent in France?
French society has been reeling over revelations of high-profile child sexual abuse cases, some of which involved incest.
Among the responses has been that of Children and Families Minister Adrien Taquet and Jistice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who want to create a new criminal offense around this.
What is the law at present?
Unlike countries like the UK and USA which have offenses of unlawful sexual intercourse or statutory rape, in France, you cannot be convicted of rape based purely on age.
Many countries’ legal codes specify that children below a certain age cannot legally give consent to sex, so having sex with a person below that age is automatically rape, with no need to prove force or coercion.
In France, this is not the case, and a person having sex with a child can only be convicted of rape if prosecutors can prove violence, coercion, threat, or surprise – the same criteria needed to prove rape of an adult victim.
Instead, people having sex with children can be prosecuted for the lesser offense of having sex with a minor, which carries much lighter penalties than rape – six months to five years in jail as opposed to the 20-year jail term that is tthe maximum for offenses of rape.