The lower house of France has passed a bill to protect minors from sexual offences by increasing the age of consent to 15 years old
The National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly passed a bill on Thursday to protect minors from sexual crimes and incest. The bill primarily raises the age of sexual consent to 15 and declares incestual relations with a minor to be rape. Incestual relations are described in France as sexual harassment by relatives. A sexual relationship between a minor and their stepparents would be considered rape under the clause prohibiting incest as rape.
Adults who have sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 15 will now face up to 20 years in jail. While the current legislation made it illegal to have sex with a child under the age of 15, it required the child's consent to be prosecuted as rape. Regardless of the victim's age, evidence of "force, danger, aggression, or surprise" was needed.
The bill's passage aligns France with the majority of Western countries. Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti described the bill's passage as a "historic move" in a tweet.
A "Romeo and Juliet" provision would protect intimate sexual relations between partners with a five-year age difference as an exception. This provision was introduced after some legislators raised fears that enacting a blanket law would criminalize legal sexual interactions between children under the age of 15 and adults a few years older. Some lawmakers, however, were against the provision, believing that a five-year age difference was too wide.
The people who incite children under the age of 15 to commit sexual acts over the internet face up to ten years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros (approximately $180,000) under the bill.
In 2018, France made street harassment illegal and began fining criminals. The country also increased the statute of limitations for rape against minors from 20 to 30 years in the same year. However, lawmakers had previously voted against a bill that was identical to the one passed on Thursday.
The bill has been approved by both houses of parliament.