The French government has agreed to set the age of sexual consent at 15 years old after public fury over two cases involving girls as young as 11.
The announcement was made by France's Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa on Monday and will mean that any adult engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 15 can be prosecuted.
However, if the adult in question is to be charged with rape, the prosecutors must prove that the sex was forced.
French President Emmanuel Macron. Credit: PA
Last November the country was left shocked when a 30-year-old man who had sex with an 11 year old girl was acquitted of rape, after the court found that she had not been the subject of 'constraint, threat, violence, or surprise'.
Another case caused outcry after a 28-year-old man was tried for the offence of having sexual relations with a minor rather than rape. The family of the girl - who was also just 11 years old - were massively upset by that decision.
The case has now been moved up to a higher court and the accused man will stand trial for rape.
French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa. Credit: PA
This decision on the age of consent comes after pressure has been piled on the government from lawmakers and child protection groups. They asked for the government to bring France into line with most other European countries by announcing a minimum age of consent, which varies but is usually between 13 and 15.
To decide upon this they enlisted the help of doctors and legal experts and Schiappa said that she was 'very glad' that they had chosen 15 - an age that has been touted as appropriate by most organisations that campaign for an end to violence against children.
She said: "We want to fix an age in the law below which it's always forbidden to have sex with children, with young girls, below which it's always considered as a rape."
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The law is part of a group of new laws aimed at reducing France's levels of sexual violence and sexism. The government will vote on them in the next few weeks.
Different countries across Europe have different ages of consent. It ranges from 14 in countries that include Germany and Austria to 16 in the UK.
In the UK there are also additional laws stating that children under the age of 13 can never consent to sexual activity.
Featured Image Credit: PA