France to toughen sex assault laws, but stops short of legal age of consent

France's lower house of parliament has voted to toughen laws on the rape of minors, but stopped short of setting a legal age of sexual consent.

During a heated debate which ended early on Wednesday, MPs decided against creating what would have been France's first law on a legal age below which a minor cannot agree to a sexual relationship with an adult. The proposal was the age of 15.

Instead, they approved a clause in which relations between an adult and a minor under 15 could be classified as rape if "the victim lacks the ability to consent". In other cases, it would be classified as a "sexual assault".

However, rights groups who had pushed for a firm age limit have reacted angrily.

The law now goes forward to the French senate for approval.

- PA

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