France sets age of consent at 15

Sex between adults and minors under 15 was already illegal, but only prosecuted as rape if there was proof of coercion.

France sets age of consent at 15

The French National Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a bill defining as rape any act of sexual penetration between an adult and a minor under 15, punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

The move enforces an age of consent in a country where previous legislation on the matter was often seen as “ambiguous.”

Sex between adults and minors under 15 was already illegal, but was up until now only prosecuted as rape if there was proof of coercion through “violence, constraint, threat or surprise.” When there was no proof of coercion, it was prosecuted as another, lighter offense called atteinte sexuelle sur mineur or “sexual act on a minor,” punishable by up to seven years in prison.

“No adult aggressor will be able to claim a minor [under 15] was consenting,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told the Assembly.

A so-called Romeo and Juliet provision will allow consensual sexual relationships between a minor under 15 and an adult teenager, if the age difference is under five years. The provision passed despite some MPs proposing to lower the difference, “to take into account the fact that a 13-year-old child never has the necessary judgment” to consent to sex with an 18-year-old, MP Albane Gaillot said.

The law also enforces a different threshold for incestuous sexual relationships, considering as rape any act of sexual penetration between an adult and a minor under 18. The move comes after allegations of incestuous abuse rattled the French intellectual elite earlier this year.