A French court ruled this week an 11-year-old girl had “consensual” sexual relations with a 28-year-old man, sparking outrage child advocates.
The shocking case, which made worldwide headlines, ignited outrage from children’s rights groups who demanded the law be changed in the country.
The girl said she was lured by the older man from a park near Paris in April to his apartment in Montmagny. She said he promised to “teach her how to kiss,” The Washington Post reported. When the two arrived at the building, they had sexual intercourse in a stairwell. The man, who is a father of two, and the girl had met twice before they engaged in sexual relations.
The girl’s parents notified police after the child told them of the incident. The parents said their daughter was raped by the man. Police arrested the man in April, The Sun reported.
However, French prosecutors in the Val d'Oise department ruled the girl “consented” to sex with the older man due to a lack of evidence. They also could not charge him with rape because he was not violent and he did not threaten her. He was instead charged with sexual abuse of a minor and was due to appear in court in February.
Carine Diebolt, the girl’s attorney, condemned the decision and claimed the man was assertive with her and threatened her repute.
“We should not even have this debate when it comes to a child,” Diebolt said. “There is a difference between curiosity and consent to a sexual act with a 28-year-old guy in a staircase.”
The girl’s mother denounced the decision and claimed her daughter was “paralyzed by fear” at the time of the incident 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 mother told Meidapart.
The man’s attorney argued the man believed he had “explicit consent” and was not aware of the girl’s age.
The girl says she showed the man a notebook which stated her age.
The lawyer said the man described the young girl as “fearless” and claimed she sent nude photos of herself over the internet.
In France, the age of sexual consent is 15 years old and, for an act to be distinguished as rape, there has to be a threat or violence involved during sex, The Strait Times reported.
A number of children’s rights groups have expressed outrage to the ruling and demanded the law be revised.
"The question of consent or its absence should never be asked for rape victims who are minors," La Voix de l'Enfant, a children’s rights group, told The Straits Times.
"It's truly terrifying to think that an 11-year-old girl is supposed to have the judgment of an adult,” Armelle Le Bigot Macaux, the leader of Cofrade children’s rights group, said.