Image by Fathromi Ramdlon

PARIS — Is a 13-year-old girl old enough to agree to sex with an adult? That’s a question France is asking itself as the government prepares to set a legal age for sexual consent for the first time.

So reads the beginning of an article by the Washington Post, one of many that have popped up because of the shocking case in which a French court dropped a rape charge after deciding an 11 year old had consented to having sex with a much older man, was brought to light. Because of this appalling verdict, France discovered their country doesn’t have a legally enforced age of consent, and that clearly needs to be fixed. How it took this long is anybody’s guess. However, the French high commission for male/female equality suggested the age be set at thirteen, while others have suggested fifteen, which was the original unenforced age, according to The Guardian.

What’s perhaps more shocking, according to The Guardian, is French equality minister Marlène Schiappa is proposing police warnings for “everyday sexism”—or microagressions, to the intersectionally inclined—such as wolf whistling and flirtatious comments. What this seems to read as is the French are more serious about trivial sexual indiscretions than they are to pedophilia. Schiappa said:

Voices are being heard, in France as in other parts of the world. Society is ready to reject this violence. There is a desire to act.

Voices are being heard, that’s right, but not all voices. Those who are perceived as being “harassed in public”are listened to, but only those over a specific age, it seems. According to The Sun, if no coercion or violence is evident, the maximum sentence for sexual abuse of a minor is five years of prison and a £66,000 fine. It is not considered the same as rape, which results in much higher penalties. How can someone like Schiappa claim to be for reducing sexually related violence, but not—to quote Helen Lovejoy—think about the children? It appears as France’s equality minister, Schiappa and her cohorts only care about equality for women and not girls and boys.

Thirteen is still too young as a suggested age of consent for France, considering their unenforced age of consent is fifteen (but prosecutors still have to prove sex was non-consensual to prove rape). While thirteen is considered the average age of puberty, puberty does not necessarily mean they are aware of the repercussions and truly understand sexual activity, especially with someone who is overage. Perhaps the French are more open with sexual activity than other nations such as the United States, Canada and Australia, who have their age of consent set at around sixteen? This graph illustrated by Wikipedia statistics show most central European nations have a relatively low age of consent compared to much of the world, similar to South America, China, Japan and north-western Africa.

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It is clear these laws should be changed as soon as possible, to avoid further cases where grown adults can be acquitted of the rape (read: pedophilia) of minors. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet  said thirteen was a “limit worth considering” by lawmakers but that judges should still “assess whether someone was old enough to give consent on a case-by-case basis”, according to The Sun. This is absurd.

In ninety-nine percent of cases, thirteen year olds are not old enough to be able to consider the ramifications of consent. In the case which sparked this debate, the eleven year old girl had agreed to go to her alleged abuser’s apartment after he promised to “teach her how to kiss’,” which shows the girl’s sheer unawareness about what was happening, hence why she was not mature enough to apply consent. A thirteen year old is not too different from an eleven year old.

It is good news to hear France is currently drafting a bill to have a clear cut age of consent for “sex” with minors, though it is disturbing Belloubet believes it can be assessed on a case by case basis. In an age where news outlets are disgustingly supportive of pedophilia—while hypocritically criticizing Milo Yiannopoulos’s beliefs on the issue, despite him being a victim of child sexual abuse—it is concerning that lawmakers are making allowances for pedophiles to commit their disgusting acts. Pedophilia should never be considered acceptable, as children cannot consent with adults. Their brains are not fully developed, and many are too immature to fully understand the concept of sex. This should be obvious, but apparently not, if we’ve got people like the French court who acquitted an alleged rapist simply because they couldn’t deem if consent was shown.

In some positive news, the proposed bill will also “give traumatised child victims more time to come forward to bring criminal charges against their attackers”, according to The Guardian. This means that someone who was abused or sexually assaulted as a child will be able to come forward up to thirty years (so, until they are almost fifty) later and the legal time limit will not have expired. This is welcoming news, and we hope that France will push forward with these laws. It is disgusting that, under current French laws, minors have to prove they were not coerced, when all they need to prove is that the sexual assault actually occurred.

It’s a shocking indictment on France that they haven’t enshrined an age of consent into law much earlier than now. While the damage may be done for the current victims impacted by this slight, hopefully future victims of pedophiles will be able to face justice. Maybe we should be focusing on these sorts of things before prosecuting “microagressions”. Because that just makes it sound like you think adult men wolf whistling adult women is much worse than adults raping children.