PARIS, France - Following a public outcry over two cases of sex involving 11-year-old girls, France announced that it is planning to make 15 the legal age of sexual consent.
Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa announced that "the government has decided to set the age at 15," after public consultations and the recommendation of a panel of experts.
The decision comes after critics and lawmakers said French laws had allowed two men to escape rape charges when they were accused of sex with underage girls.
Under the current French law, any sexual act by an adult with a child younger than 15 can be prosecuted as a sexual offence.
The law, however, specifies that prosecutors hoping to charge an offender with rape must prove the sex was forced - which becomes a more complicated question when pre-teens are involved.
The first case that provoked a public outcry came to light in November last year, when a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape of an 11-year-old girl.
The court determined the victim had not been subjected to "constraint, threat, violence or surprise.”
Them, in a second case, again involving an 11-year-old girl, a 28-year-old man faced charges of sexual relations with a minor, rather than rape.
The decision enraged the girl's family and let to much criticism.
In February this year, however, the court reversed course and said the man should indeed face rape charges, though it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court.
However, following the incidents and subsequent court hearings, lawmakers and child-protection groups have been urging the government to set a minimum age of consent, as is the case in many European countries, with suggested ages ranging from 13 to 15.
Making the announcement on Monday, Schiappa said she was "very glad" that the government had chosen 15 as the legal age, as recommended by a panel of doctors and legal experts.
The new age limit is set to be approved by the government over the coming weeks and is part of a law that is aimed at curbing sexual violence and sexism in the country.