On Thursday, the French parliament passed legislation designating sex with a child under the age of 15 as rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, taking the country’s criminal code closer to that of many other Western countries.
Sex between an adult and a child under the age of 15 was still illegal, but it could only be charged as rape if the minor was coerced by abuse, constraint, or surprise. It was charged as a ‘sexual act on a minor’ though there was no evidence of coercion.
“For our children and our country, this is a landmark statute,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told the National Assembly.
Incestuous sex with a minor under the age of 18 is often considered rape under the law.
Sexual violence against women and children in the upper echelons of power and within celebrity circles went undetected or undeclared for years in a country that has long coveted its self-image as the land of seduction and romance.
However, in recent years, there has been a lot of soul-searching.
The #MeToo campaign, which swept the globe after a number of women accused U.S. movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in 2017, was a watershed moment in France. In 2020, a French writer who had written publicly about his pedophilia also fell from grace.