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France

Sexual violence complaints jump in France after Weinstein scandal

media #Me too and #Balancetonporc ("expose your pig") on the hand of a protester demonstrating against sexual violence in Paris on October 29, 2017. AFP/Bertrand Guay

Official complaints jumped some 30 percent in October in France compared to the same period last year, a sign women here may be feeling more emboldened to speak up following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape have jumped from 23 percent to as much as 30 percent, the Interior Ministry said Monday.

The announcement came as the international scandal regarding sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein continues to grow.

In an interview with French radio on Monday, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said “the judiciary is ready to deal with” the higher number of reports filed with police.

Belloubet said she was open to the idea of allowing victims to register “pre-complaints” online without going to the police station. Complaints would then be followed up by authorities.

Police ‘mobilised’ to respond to sexual violence

Richard Lizurey, the director general of the gendarmerie national, wrote to officers and prefects last week to underline their role in preventing sexual violence and helping victims.

“The fight against sexual and domestic violence requires a general mobilisation of our police and armed forces at every level,” Lizurey wrote.

The letter came as France has been rocked by two sexual violence cases in which adult men have been acquitted of raping girls when they were minors.

Last week, a man was acquitted for raping and impregnating a girl who was 11 years old at the time. The man, who was 22 when the incident allegedly occurred, claimed the victim had lied about her age and said she was 15. According to the court ruling, there was no concrete evidence he had forced her to have sex.

In a separate case, a 28-year-old man was found not guilty of rape because his 11-year-old victim reportedly did not resist his advances. Her alleged lack of resistance was interpreted as consent.

Under French law, an act of sexual violence is defined as rape if it is proven there was “constraint, threats, violence or surprise”.

The cases have sparked a debate in France over whether or not there should be a legal age below which it is considered a child cannot consent to sex.

French parliament has started drafting legislation to address this issue. Gender Equality Minister Marlène Schiappa said “the median age of emotional maturity” is “somewhere between 13 and 15,” while Justice Minister Belloubet told French radio on Monday that “13 years can be envisaged.”

Belloubet added that she’s considering extending the statute of limitations for the prosecution of child rape cases from 20 to 30 years.

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