French prosecutors have decided that sex between an 11-year-old and a 28-year-old man was consensual, prompting outrage across the country.
The man will only face the charge of sexual abuse of a minor – which carries a sentence of five years in prison – rather than rape, because he did not physically force her to have sex with him.
The girl is understood to have agreed to follow the man to his house from a park in Montmagny, a suburb to the north of Paris. He reportedly said he would teach her to kiss, but then had sex with her at the apartment.
The family of the child argued the girl was “paralysed” with fear and was unable to defend herself.
“She thought it was too late, that she didn’t have the right to protest, that it wouldn’t make any difference, so she went into autopilot, without emotion and without reaction,” the child’s mother told French news site Mediapart.
In cases involving adults in France, if no threat or violence occurs during sexual act it is deemed consensual. But the law does not take into account those under the age of 15, which is the age of consent.
France’s penal code says: “Committing a sexual offence against a minor under the age of 15 without violence, constraint, threat or surprise is punished by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.”
The child’s lawyer, Carine Diebolt, argued it was irrelevant whether the child resisted the man’s advances. Calling for legislative change, she told reporters: “Today we should not even have this debate when it comes to a child.”
Children’s rights group Le Voix de l’Enfant said in a statement: “The question of consent or its absence should never even be asked when it comes to rape victims who are minors”.