France seeks to set age of consent at 15

France is planning to introduce an age of sexual consent for the first time, making sex with under-15s illegal, and will make it easier to punish historic sexual abuse. 

The move from France's government comes amid growing public pressure and a wave of online testimonies about rape and other sexual violence by parents and authority figures.

Child protection activists and victims celebrated the announcement, but say France needs to do more as a society to stop this abuse.

France's lack of an age of consent - along with statutes of limitations - have complicated efforts to prosecute alleged perpetrators.

In France, it is an offence for someone in a position of authority to have sex with a person under the age of 18.

In comparison, in the UK, sex with under-13s is statutory rape. 

Recent cases have involved a prominent modelling agent, a predatory priest, a surgeon and a group of firefighters accused of systematic abuse.

Calling such treatment of children 'intolerable,' the justice ministry said 'the government is determined to act quickly to implement the changes that our society expects.'

'An act of sexual penetration by an adult on a minor under 15 will be considered a rape,' Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said Tuesday on France-2 television.

Perpetrators could no longer cite consent to diminish the charges, he said, though exceptions would be made for teenagers having consensual sex.

The change still needs to be enshrined in law, but the announcement is a major step after years of efforts to toughen French protection for child victims of rape and other sexual violence.

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