France will introduce a legal age of consent, and it'll be 15—four years older than the ages of the two girls whose cases sparked the calls for such an age limit. Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa on Monday announced that 15 had been selected after consulting in part with doctors and legal experts. The BBC explains the new limit will brand sex with anyone under 15 as rape; under current law, prosecutors have to prove the child was forced into sex. The Washington Post elaborates, reporting that with rape charges difficult to prove, many defendants faced a lesser charge of sexual abuse of a minor, which was punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to roughly $90,000. Rape convictions carry heftier punishments.
A firestorm erupted after two men—one 30, one 28—were recently accused of having sex with 11-year-olds. The first man was acquitted of rape, with the court stating there wasn't evidence the girl had been threatened or violently forced. In the second case, the initial charges were not rape but sexual relations with a minor; the family protested, reports the AFP, and the charges were subsequently upgraded. The government is expected to approve the new age limit as soon as next week, per the Post. (Read more age of sexual consent stories.)