“I find it quite astounding that we are talking about adolescent love affairs between a 13-year-old child and an 18-year-old”

Associate researcher at the Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences of the Sorbonne (Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne), author of the book The pitfalls of consent (IXe editions, 228 pages, 16 euros), Catherine Le Magueresse welcomes the criminalization of any sexual relationship between an adult and a minor under 15, in the process of being adopted by parliamentarians, but regrets a too little in-depth debate.

Senator Annick Billon’s bill to protect minors from sexual crimes sets a legal ban on all sexuality between an adult and a minor under the age of 15. Is this a step forward that you welcome?

Very clearly, yes. This is a request made for several years by more than thirty associations, united within the Collective for Children. [CPE]. This provision, which exists in a multitude of countries, is also eagerly awaited by French women and men, who are often quite surprised when they learn that the current law does not specifically protect minors. For the latter, as for the adult victims, it is indeed necessary, to characterize a rape, to prove the existence of a constraint, threat, violence or surprise.

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Since the Pontoise affair, [en 2017, la justice avait décidé de juger un homme qui avait des relations sexuelles avec une enfant de 11 ans pour « atteinte sexuelle sur mineure de 15 ans », en dépit d’une plainte déposée pour « viol ». Le parquet avait considéré que la contrainte ne pouvait pas être établie] public opinion has been informed of the gaping loopholes in the protection of minors and is therefore waiting for the system to be improved. It was also a commitment by Emmanuel Macron, in his 2017 speech on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. But so far, it has not been held: the government having finally backed down when the 2018 law on gender-based and sexual violence was adopted.

At the time, the Council of State, seized for opinion, had opposed the fixing of an age threshold on the grounds that it would flout the presumption of innocence of the accused. What is regrettable is that on this point the European Court of Human Rights, seized of a case in the United Kingdom, was already providing a clear answer. The European court thus indicated in a judgment rendered in 2011 that it was possible to introduce into criminal law offenses prohibiting sexual interaction between an adult and a minor, on condition that they are characterized by a material element – such as the contact of a sexual nature – and an intentional element – the fact of wanting this contact.

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