Should an age of consent be written into French law?

France does not have a legal age of consent – a point which has been under debate again following a new book in which the author tells of the harm she suffered from a sexual relationship with a man of 50 when she was 14.

Vanessa Springora’s book Le Consentement (Consent) talks about her time with writer Gabriel Matzneff, now 83, who has since written books describing sex with minors, including “sex tourism” with some as young as 10.

French law has an “age of sexual majority” at 15 but no age below which a minor cannot be deemed to consent, whereas in the UK, for example, sex with under-13s is statutory rape.

In France, all sex with minors is punishable, by seven years’ jail and a €100,000 fine, but the more serious crime of sexual assault, which can include rape, requires “force, threats or surprise”.

Lawyers may argue consent as a defence, though courts have sometimes found “surprise” due to a child being too young to understand sexuality.

A 2018 bill aiming to establish a clear age of consent at 15 did not pass after the Conseil d’Etat found fault with its wording.

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Pascal Cussigh, ...

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