The highly controversial trial of a 29-year-old man accused of  “sexually abusing a minor” aged 11, began on February 13, 2018 at the Pontoise Criminal Court, Val-d’Oise, France in closed proceedings.

After debating for several hours, the criminal court dismissed the case due to lack of jurisdiction. According to Article 469 in the Code of Criminal Procedure, they asked the prosecution to submit their case to a more competent court: “If the case and the description of the offense referred to the criminal court are likely to result in a criminal sentence, the court refers to the Public Ministry to appeal as it will deem appropriate (…) »

The question of the girl’s consent is central to the debate. Her family had filed a complaint for “rape” for the events in Montmagny on April 24. But the prosecution deemed it was willful consent, since she was not physically constrained. This rebuttal was invoked to avoid “rape” charges, which would be punishable by 20 years in prison due to the alleged victim’s young age. For an offense of “sexual assault”, the perpetrator would only be liable for 5 years in prison and a 75 000 Euros fine. (For further details click here).

At the end of the hearing, the complainants’ lawyer, Carine Diebolt declared a “victory for the victims“. She added that the prosecution will “most likely” appoint an investigating judge and “the case will be thoroughly investigated”.

Another case was also widely criticized in November 2017 when a 30-year-old man was acquitted after the rape of an 11-year-old girl. Numerous requests, including those from child protection associations, are asking for a minimum age of consent to be defined for the sexual act.

Thus the French government has decided to take legal steps. President Emmanuel Macron would like to set this age at 15 years old, while the Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet, has mentioned age 13 for the threshold age.  The bill against gender-based violence, which will determine this cut-off age, is scheduled for March 7 at the Council of Ministers. It is co-sponsored by the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister for Equality between Women and Men, Marlène Schiappa, and the Justice Minister, Nicole Belloubet.