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France makes it easier to prosecute sex crimes against minors

media An allegory of Justice is pictured in front of lawyer dress in the Maison Bosc store. AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE FRANCK FIFE / AFP

The French parliament on Wednesday adopted new legislation making it easier to prosecute crimes of sexual violence against minors in the wake of two recent cases of sex involving 11-year-old girls.

Following up on President Emmanuel Macron's election campaign promises to get tough on sexual violence and sexism, the National Assembly voted in favour of tougher punishments for rape and sexual abuse against minors, an extension of the limitation period for the prosecution of certain crimes and a crackdown on sexual harassment.

The changes come in the wake of a public outcry over two cases in which two men escaped rape charges when they were accused of sex with underage girls.

Any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence under current French law.

But prosecutors hoping to charge an offender with rape must prove the sex was forced, a more complicated question when pre-teens are involved.

In November, a 30-year-old man was acquitted of the rape of an 11-year-old girl after the court determined she had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise".

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 enraged the girl's family.

Under the new legislation, it will be easier for judges to establish rape.

The bill also extends from 20 years to 30 years the period of limitation for the prosecution of sex crimes against minors.

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