Following the outcry over men who escaped rape charges in case of minor survivors, France has decided to set legal sexual consent  age to 15. French equality minister Marlène Schiappa said that the government had decided to set the age of consent at 15. The government made the decision after public consultations and the recommendation of a panel of experts. This move come following public outrage over two separate cases where two men escaped from rape charges, for having a sexual relationship with girls aged 11. For the prosecution to charge an offender with rape in France, they need to prove that the sexual relationship was forced. henceforth, any offender who engages in any kind of sexual activity with a child below 15 will be charged with rape.

This move will help the prosecution in cases where they cannot prove the use of force.

Often in cases of child sexual abuse, the predators do not resort to physical violence. They groom the child with verbal threats, blackmail, incentives and false information.

Thus, after the crime, there is no evidence to prove that the sexual relationship was not consensual. Under the existing French legislation, the prosecution needs to prove violence or coercion to prove rape, else, they can only charge the offenders with sexual abuse of a minor. This has a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000.

It is in such cases, that age of consent will come handy to put the perpetrators behind the bars. It will also make sure that offenders targeting children will serve a harsher sentence. French society is notorious for failure in restraining misogyny and casualisation of sexual offences. Thus, this move will also draw a clear line, between legally acceptable and criminal offense.

The  sexual consent age varies from country to country, according to their legal and cultural structure.

Across Europe, the age of consent is between 14 to 16 years on an average. We belong to a country where the age of sexual consent is 18. Hence this might seem to be on a shockingly lower side. But we have to understand that it is acceptable in a culturally liberal society, where sex education and sexual awareness are not a taboo topic.

Many activists have demanded that age of consent be reduced to 16 in India as well. They argue that it is unfair to consenting youths, who are well aware of the consequence of their actions. But unless we are successful in imparting proper sex education and awareness on protection across the country, the move will backfire. It may lead to a rise in teenage pregnancies and again, it will be the females who will bear the brunt.

Also, the age of consent is 18 in our country because child marriages are way more common here. Hence, it is a part of the effort to curb child marriages, and also a crackdown against child trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.

Picture Credits: IndiaTimes

Also Read: Busting Myths: Why “people like us” need to talk about Child Abuse

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own

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