Fight for the Safety of Children and Women

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

Brad Pitt Joins Angelina Jolie at Rape Summit

Angelina Jolie, 39, and Brad Pitt, 50, led a summit about ending rape, titled: “End Sexual Violence in Conflict”, on Thurs., Jun. 12. Foreign Secretary, Mr. Hague, and Jolie led the third day of the summit. Jolie is a special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

At the event, the couple was accompanied by Human Rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin, recent fiancé to George Clooney. Alamuddin has been a member of Doughty Street Chambers in London since 2010. Before Pitt took his seat, Baroness Warsi playfully said to one woman, “This is Team Hague”, from the row behind Pitt. Warsi jokingly assigned this group title to Jolie, Pitt and Alamuddin.

Jolie wore all black to the summit, following her white streak the first two days. Pitt was also dressed dapper and dark. The couple posed for photographers at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London’s Docklands, where the four day event was held. This summit was the largest of its kind to ever occur, bringing guests from over 100 different countries.

Jolie revealed that the government representatives from all over the world would listen to sexual violence accounts from victims of their own countries during this conference. She said that although they wouldn’t be “forced to act”, she believes that they will, “deeply want to and be moved and be committed.”

As Jolie and Mr. Hague spoke to the audience composed of international officials and delegates, Pitt watched from the front row. Alamuddin sat on the opposite side of the auditorium.

In her speech Jolie poignantly stated: ”We are here for the nine-year-old girl in Uganda, kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. We are here for the man in Bosnia, years after rape, still stigmatised, unable to earn enough money to buy bread for his family. We are here for all the forgotten, hidden survivors who have been made to feel ashamed or been abandoned. And for the children of rape – we want the whole world to hear their stories and understand that this injustice cannot be tolerated, and that sorrow and compassion are not enough.”

Jolie announced that a new international protocol represented the, “beginning of the fight.” In addition, she told BBC that such a protocol means that governments in war zones would no longer be able to maintain the excuse that they do not know how to deal with these issues. Jolie announced that women all over the world are, “united in this fight together.”

For the past two years, Jolie and Hague have worked closely on the government initiative that combats sexual violence in war zones. Hague said that the UK will be able to offer an extra $10 million to aid victims of sexual violence in conflict.

Conservative politician, Hague, expressed that he views his unique collaboration with Jolie as a perfect example of how foreign policy should be dealt with in the future. According to Hague, the combined forces of such a prominent actress and politician can be “formidable”. Hague described working with Jolie stating, ”My admiration for her work has grown even greater over the last two years.She has the power to speak to the whole world, to raise awareness, change attitudes. Governments like the one I am a member of hold in their hands levers of decision-making and action.” He also added that he thinks she is an “inspiration.”

Jolie recently discussed the issue with CNN, “It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict. There’s nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians.” She continued, “It has nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power. We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence — that the shame is on the aggressor.”

Jolie will also work with friend and fashion designer, Stella McCartney, along with War Child UK, in creating a new child-focused campaign entitled: “Draw Me to Safety.”


Photo: AP