19:28 GMT +317 October 2019
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    This courtroom sketch created on February 13, 2018 at the courthouse of Pontoise, northwest of Paris, shows a 29-year-old defendant (Rear C) seated in the dock with his lawyers Sandrine Paris-Heidegger (Front L) and Marc Goudarzian (R) during his trial behind closed doors for alleged sexual assault on an 11-year-old girl in April 2017

    Twitter Thunderstruck as French Child Sex Abuse Trial Fuels Consent Debates

    © AFP 2019 / Benoit PEYRUCQ
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    A 29-year old man has been accused of sexually abusing an eleven-year-old girl; the case has prompted heated discussions about the age of consent in France.

    During the trial, lawyers for the suspect insisted that the girl was aware of what she was doing despite her age, while the girl’s attorneys argued that she was too young to comprehend the situation and too confused to resist. France does not have a legal age under which a child cannot agree to sexual intercourse, and the prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Pontoise made the decision to put the man on trial, not for rape, but on charges of “sexual abuse of a minor under 15.”

    The defendant’s lawyers said that their client, who was 28 at the time, believed the girl was at least 16 and threw a jaw-dropping argument, which, from their standpoint, was a game changer.

    “She was 11 years and 10 months old, so nearly 12 years old,” defense lawyer Marc Goudarzian said Tuesday. “It changes the story. So she is not a child.”

    His colleague Sandrine Parise-Heideiger proceeded to say, “We are not dealing with a sexual predator on a poor little faultless goose.”

    She added that as soon as children have “sexual expressiveness and you have an attitude of putting yourself in danger” then “it doesn’t necessarily mean the person on the other side is a sexual predator.”

    The lawyer for the girl’s family, Carine Diebolt, asked the court to change the charge to rape, and the judge agreed to send the case back to investigators.

    “It’s a victory,” Diebolt told reporters after the trial. “The main thing is that [the girl] can at last be heard as a victim of rape … we can say it’s a victory for the victims.”

    Due to the wide publicity given to the case, it has fanned the flames of the debates on age of consent in France. President Emmanuel Macron has proposed a bill to introduce a minimum age for sexual consent, although it has not been decided on yet, it could be between 13 and 15.

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    The case spurred outrage among twitter users; people from across the globe were astonished to find out that there was no age of consent in France, and called the arguments made by the defendant’s lawyers “disgusting”:

    French netizens were also furious with the line the suspect’s lawyers took, and said that an 11-year-old girl could not give her consent to sexual relations with a 28-year-old man:

    “No, no, no and once again no! Did this piece of s**t know that she was eleven? This is a child, a little girl!”

    “And getting pregnant at 12 doesn’t shock anyone? Please, give me a pinch so that I could wake up from this nightmare. In France. In 2018.”

    “The lawyer and the judges should be charged with complicity in #rape”

    rape, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse, France
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