France plans to make changes to the legal age of sexual consent. Current legislation criminalises sex with a child under the age of 15-years-old, but with the caveat that prosecutors must also prove that the sexual act was forced.
The new plans are to change the legal age of sexual consent to 15-years-old, meaning that any sex between an adult and a child of under 15 will be considered rape.
Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa has welcomed the move, which follows advice from doctors and legal experts, and she announced that the new law will be presented to Council of Ministers on March 21.
Schiappa told AFP news agency that she was 'very glad' that the higher age was chosen. The limit is also supported by President Emmanuel Macron.
It comes after a public outcry over two recent cases of men accused of having sex with 11-year-old girls.
Under existing laws, if violence and force can't be proven, offenders may only be charged with sexual abuse of a minor and not with rape. This carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of €75,000 (£66,000; $87,000).
Last year, a 30-year-old man escaped rape charges after a court found that his 11-year-old victim had not been subjected to 'constraint, threat, violence or surprise' (The Guardian).
In another case involving an 11-year-old girl, a 28-year-old man had faced charges of sexual relations with a minor, rather than rape - a decision that angered the girl's family.
But last month, the same court reversed its decision, saying the accused should indeed face rape charges - though it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court.
The new age limit is part of a series of laws aimed at combating sexual violence and sexism, which will be approved by the French government later this month.
The UK's age of sexual consent is 16, but children under the age of 13 have additional legal protections that declare they can never consent to sexual activity.