“Children are off limits” is a concept that usually never needs to be uttered aloud, because it is ingrained in the average human being that children are off-limits in every conceivable way. But apparently, the statement can be attributed to an actual French lawmaker, who made the point to the the National Assembly on Monday, as it put forth legislation that would set the age of consent at 15 years old, the New York Times reports. The bill is now on its way to the French senate, and should it be approved (which it absolutely should be) it could go into law as early as April, several hundred years after it should have probably gone into effect.
The bill would establish an age of consent in France, classifying any “sexual interaction” with a child below that age as a criminal act of rape, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Previously, though it was illegal to have sex with a child under 15 in France, but it would not be classified as rape in the court system. The child would have to show evidence that they had been harmed or coerced into having sex in order to trigger a rape charge. Incroyable.
According to the Times, this bill comes three years after the French government turned down a similar bill, turning a blind eye to years of child abuse that had been allowed to continue with abusers claiming their victims consented to sexual acts.
The bill also comes with a bit of a loophole for young people, known as the “Romeo and Juliet” clause. If the “age gap between the consensual partners were small,” the automatic charge of rape would not apply. This stipulation is to protect young people who are having sex with someone 15 years old or younger but only if the two people are five years apart in age. So if a 14-year-old first-year high school student and a 19-year-old college freshman have sex and both claim that they consented, there is no criminal charge.