The criminal law on sexual crimes is evolving in France, with the creation of a specific juvenile offense.
The Senate passed, in first reading, a law to retain the age of 13 as the threshold for sexual consent. Children under this age will be automatically declared as non-consenting in cases of rape or sexual assault.
The Senate adopted on Thursday, 21 January 2021 a bill to establish "a clear societal ban" on sexual consent and the protection of minors. The objective is to introduce a new sexual crime with the creation of a threshold age below which children will no longer be accountable for their will after abuse or rape. According to the text, promoted by politician Annick Billon, it assured that France’s “current criminal law does not sufficiently protect children from sexual predators", children under 13 years of age will no longer have to justify that they did not consent during sexual relations with an adult.
Proposed legislation would criminalize any sexual act between an adult and a minor under the age of 13. With a majority vote (343 out of 345 in favour and zero against), this amendment creates a new specific offense to criminalize sexual acts between adults and children. Thus, sexual penetration between an adult with knowledge of the child's age and a minor under 13 years of age has become punishable by 20 years in prison.
The project also aims to extend the statute of limitations for not reporting sexual violence against a minor. The statute of limitations would be ten years from the age of majority in the case of a misdemeanor and twenty years in the case of a crime. Victims would therefore be able to file a complaint within a longer period of time from the age of 18.
The debate has been relaunched by the Duhamel affair
The issue of sexual violence against minors was brought to light by the shocking statements of Camille Kouchner, accusing her stepfather Olivier Duhamel of raping her twin brother, then aged 14, in her book La Familia Grande.
The word was spread with the hashtag #metooinceste, launched by the collective Nous Toutes, whose horrifying testimonies were widely relayed via social networks.
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However, regarding her bill, Annick Billon assured that the text had "not been elaborated in reaction to the political and media explosion provoked by Camille Kouchner's book".