(The AEGIS Alliance) – PARIS, FRANCE – France’s government wants to make the age of sexual consent 15-years-old and make it easier to punish older cases of child sex abuse, amid rising public pressure and a wave of online testimonies about rape and different sexual violence by mothers and fathers and authority figures.
Child protection activists and victims celebrated the announcement, however, said France must do more as a society to stop this abuse.
France’s lack of an age of consent, together with statutes of limitations has complicated efforts to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including recent instances involving a distinguished modeling agent, a predatory priest, a surgeon, and a group of firefighters accused of systematic abuse.
Calling such treatment of youngsters “intolerable,” the justice ministry stated, “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 stated on France-2 television on Tuesday. Perpetrators may no longer cite consent to decrease the charges, he mentioned, although exceptions could be made for youngsters having consensual intercourse.
The change nonetheless must be enshrined in law, however, the announcement is a significant step after years of efforts to toughen French protection for child victims of rape and other sexual violence.
“Finally!” mentioned Fatima Benomar, whose group Les Effrontees has pushed for tougher guidelines towards sexual abusers of kids.
“It’s very good that there is this revived debate, that there is an idea of a minimum age of consent. This will make adults more responsible.”
An effort to set France’s first age of consent three years ago in the wake of the worldwide #MeToo movement failed amid legal issues. But it has gained new momentum since accusations emerged last month of incestuous sexual abuse involving a distinguished French political professional, Olivier Duhamel. That unleashed an online #MeTooInceste movement in France that led to tens of thousands of similar testimonies.
The Justice Ministry is in discussions with victims’ groups about toughening punishment of incestuous abuse and increasing or abolishing the statute of limitations on sexual violence against kids, as a result of it creating such deep trauma that it could possibly take many years for victims to speak out. The legislation currently permits child victims to file complaints until they’re 48.
The ministry additionally says it wants “to ensure that victims of the same perpetrator do not receive different legal treatment,” which may broaden the scope to prosecute those accused of abusing a number of individuals over many years.
Legal deadlines have hampered French authorities’ capability to investigate an influential cardinal, Philippe Barbarin, convicted then acquitted of covering up for a predatory priest; modeling agent Jean-Luc Brunel, an affiliate of disgraced late US financier Jeffrey Epstein, accused of an array of sex crimes; and surgeon Joel le Scouarnec, convicted after accusations he sexually abused over 300 youngsters over many years, in addition to other less-prominent cases.
France’s highest courtroom was contemplating a case Wednesday involving a woman who says a number of firefighters raped her when she was between 13 and 15. A lower courtroom downgraded the charges to sexual assault, but her attorneys need them reclassified as rape.
Under present French law, sexual relations between an adult and a minor below 15 are banned. Yet the law accepts the likelihood that somebody below 15 is able to consent to intercourse, resulting in cases where an adult is just prosecuted for sexual assault as an alternative to rape and faces a lighter jail sentence.
In the Duhamel case, the Paris prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged “rapes and sexual abuses by a person exercising authority” over a child following accusations in a book by his stepdaughter that he abused her twin brother in the 1980s when the siblings had been in their early teenage years.
Duhamel, saying he was “the target of personal attacks,” stepped down from his several professional positions, including as a TV commentator and head of the National Foundation of Political Sciences. The foundation manages the distinguished Sciences Po university in Paris, whose director Frederic Mion resigned this week amid the fallout from the affair, which entangled a number of people in France’s intellectual elite.
Since the Duhamel accusations surfaced, searing accounts of alleged incestuous abuse filled social media networks. Other distinguished figures in cinema and politics have additionally been accused. The movement spawned an offshoot #MeTooGay wave in France of long-suppressed testimonies of sexual abuse by older males.
Activists say enhancing legal guidelines is part of the battle, however, in addition, they are also pushing for more child-centered public policies to train teachers and others to identify and report abuse.
The World Health Organization says worldwide research shows that one in 5 women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
15-years-old for sexual consent still seems too young for people in countries like the United States.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.