French Court Finds that Sex with Child Wasn’t Rape


In NSW, it is a crime for a person to have sexual intercourse with another who is under the age of 16-years, or 18 if there is a relationship of ‘special care’.

Similar ‘age of consent’ laws apply in countries like the United States and United Kingdom.

However, no such age of consent in criminal law applies in France. In that country, the law states that a person can have sexual intercourse at any age provided they have given ‘informed consent’.

But the French government is under increasing pressure to set an age of consent after two cases where men were acquitted of rape after having sexual intercourse with 11-year old girls.

The cases

The first case involves a 30-year-old man who was alleged to have groomed an 11-year-old girl into a sexual relationship. The man was recently acquitted after prosecutors failed to prove that the sex was non-consensual; in other words, that the complainant had not given her informed consent. The girl became pregnant, and the baby was later placed in foster care.

The second case involved a 28-year old accused of luring an 11-year old girl into his Paris flat where they repeatedly engaged in sexual acts. Despite allegations the 11-year-old was unable to defend herself due to ‘shock’, prosecutors dropped the charge of rape due to insufficient evidence of a lack of consent.

Calls for reform in France

In response to the public outcry, the French Government is considering setting the age of consent at somewhere between 13 and 15 years of age.

Under current French laws, only sexual acts committed with the use of “violence, coercion, threat or surprise” are considered to be rape, regardless of the victim’s age.

Establishing a legal age of consent is just one piece of a pending bill to address sexual assault and harassment in France. Indeed, the subject of sexual misconduct has drawn fresh attention worldwide since rape and sexual assault allegations were made against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

While many people consider France as a place of love and romance, the country has experienced significant fallout in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, with more than 300,000 allegations of sexual harassment and abuse being reported on Twitter in one week as the global #metoo campaign of women speaking out about sexual misconduct went viral on social media.

Victims’ groups in France believe the time has come to better protect women and children, given the country has often been forced to debate the issue of sexual misconduct following high profile scandals involving celebrities and politicians, but has done little in legal terms to address the problem.


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About Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers content team.
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