Each and every one of us tends to have an innate desire to preserve the innocence of children, regardless of our differences in terms of personal identity. However, there has been a longstanding debate over the exact age at which children should be able to make their own decisions. Although this remains indefinite across the world, nations have had to come to their own conclusions in the process of setting a legal age of sexual consent. The consequence of a lack thereof is apparent in recent cases. Four months ago, the alleged rapist of an eleven-year-old girl was exonerated from rape charges. The absence of elements such as violence, threat, surprise and constraint ultimately led to the thirty-year-old man’s discharge.
With the implementation of France’s new policy towards setting the legal age of sexual consent at fifteen-years-old, sexual contact with anyone under that age will be convicted with rape charges, regardless of context; Children are never in the position to give consent. This move is supported by Marlene Schiappa, the Equality Minister, following the advice of legal professionals. This is an extremely uplifting news seeing as these offenders could only be accused of sexual abuse of a minor instead of rape prior to this. At worst, they could only be forced to serve a five-year sentence, in addition to an $87,000 penalty. That is the same punishment for both minors and legal adults. That leaves room for plenty of alleged rapist to break free. Those who are behind such horrific acts deserve a far more punitive consequence.
“Setting a legal age of sexual consent would allow a collective awareness and that everyone would see what was legal and illegal,” quoting Agnès Buzyn, the Minister of Solidarity and Health in Le Figaro, the French newspaper reports.
Even the current fixed age seems too young in comparison to Cyprus, who has set their legal age of sexual consent at seventeen-years-old. Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Portugal, on the other hand, have set their age at fourteen-years-old. Furthermore, France had some uncertainty regarding the exact age, be it thirteen or fifteen. In that period of time, many activist organizations that supports the cause of fighting violence against children were pushing for the higher age, reaffirmed by the Equality Minister and President Emmanuel Macron.
All of the aforementioned components concerning sexual assault policies are awaiting the government’s approval in the coming weeks. A separate case that incriminated a twenty-eight-year-old man with sexual assault charges have had some changes recently. The victim was initially described as “not physically forced to have sex” but the change in policy have decided that it is indeed, rape. With varying legal age of consent across the world, ranging from thirteen to eighteen, how do we determine when children have the ability to make the right judgements?
Perhaps we should focus on improving the safety of these women (and men) by eliminating the callous criminals. In the meantime, we can only attempt to do so through the platform of legal proceedings. Children and women should be able to feel safe in their environments as well as everybody else. Legal age or otherwise, children will eventually reach the consented age but that still does not ensure that no harm will come in their way. As a matter of fact, sexual assault is a usual occurrence on the streets of France as well. Findings have revealed that one in every eight French females has been sexually assaulted before. Hence, new plans for anti-street harassment policy are vital to the safety of women in France.
Further updates will be posted when it is announced.
Featured Image via Flickr/wp paarz