“In February, Notre Dame of Dijon was vandalized, with hosts scattered about,” she notes. “At Notre Dame Church in Nimes, a cross was recently drawn on the wall using excrement and consecrated Communion hosts. Notre Dame of France Catholic bookstore was vandalized last September.”
Indeed, according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, such attacks in France have been relentless for the past four years.” Who’s behind this trend? “A variety of extremists enraged by the identities and teachings that the churches symbolize — Christianity, French nationalism and Western civilization at large.”
As a campaign to crack down on sexual harassment intensifies, France is considering doing something long ago adopted in other Western nations: setting a minimum age of consent for having sex.
In recent court cases, judges refused to prosecute men for having sex with minor children because there was no proof of coercion.
“We want the irrefutable presumption that a minor cannot agree to engage in sex with an adult,” said Catherine Brault, a lawyer who defends child victims in Paris.
The measure is part of proposed legislation to curb “lecherous” behavior in France, part of the fallout from the sexual harassment scandals that have erupted in the United States and since spread to France.
Adults now can be charged with groping and sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison if they’re found guilty of abusing a child under 15. The more serious charge of aggravated sexual assault or rape of a child carries a sentence of up to 20 years — but coercion or violence must be proven.
As the law is written now it can be interpreted that “a girl can consent to a sexual relationship, but she cannot consent to groping,” said Brault. “This gap has been denounced for years and years.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet has suggested a legal minimum age of 13 for sexual consent. Other French leaders have called for an age of 15. Adults violating the age of consent would immediately face rape charges with or without signs of coercion.
In the United States, the age of consent set by the states ranges from 16 to 18.
The debate here was prompted by outrage over recent cases involving young children.
On Nov. 7, a 30-year-old French man was acquitted of rape after a jury found no evidence that he had forced an 11-year-old into having sex. The jurors ruled that the elements that constitute rape such as “coercion, threat, violence and surprise were not established,” since the girl had followed him willingly.
The girl became pregnant and gave birth to a boy who has been placed in a foster home.
“There’s no justice!” said Farida Oubelkacem, 46, a housewife in reaction to the verdict. “When this man is acquitted, what kind of message does it send? The justice system must set an example and in this case it sets a very bad example. This girl is destroyed, so is her son and all of her family.”
In another case in October, prosecutors declined to file rape charges against a 28-year old man who had sex with an 11-year-old girl, stating they could not justify the charges since she had shown no resistance.
For Fatima-Ezzahra Benomar, spokeswoman for the feminist association Les Effronté-e-s (The Shameless), securing an age of consent has been a long, uphill battle.
“French people are only discovering now that today’s law allows 11-year-old girls to consent to sexual (intercourse with) men,” she said. “We’ve been asking for this minimum age (of consent) for a long time. At 11, you can imagine that you have no clue what is actually happening to you.”
Is a 13-year-old old enough to agree to sex with an adult? That’s a question France is asking as the government prepares to set a legal age for sexual consent for the first time.
Twice in recent weeks, French courts have refused to prosecute men for rape after they had sex with 11-year-old girls because authorities couldn’t prove coercion. Amid the public disbelief over the situation, the French government is drafting a bill to say that sex with children under a certain age is by definition coercive.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet provoked consternation among feminist groups Monday by saying a legal minimum age of 13 for sexual consent “is worth considering.”
Activists staged a small protest Tuesday in central Paris to argue that the age of consent should be set at 15. Protesters waved placards that read “for him impunity, for her a life sentence” in reference to the recent cases.
“We want the law to guarantee that before 15 there can be no concept of consent,” prominent French feminist activist Caroline de Haas said.
“I don’t know why (Belloubet) said it,” added Alice Collet, a member of the National Collective for Women’s Rights. “It’s a sign of ignorance of the issues.”
Establishing a legal age of consent is one piece of a pending bill to address sexual violence and harassment in France. The subject of sexual misconduct has drawn fresh attention worldwide since rape and sexual assault allegations were made against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.
“In America with the Weinstein fallout, there have been legal investigations. But here it has been radio silence from politicians,” said de Haas.
French women have increasingly been speaking out online and to police in recent weeks about past abuse, but no high-profile men in France have lost their jobs or suffered reputational damage so far.
A report Tuesday night in the newspaper Liberation detailed allegations by eight women accusing the former head of the Socialist Party’s youth movement of serial harassment in 2010-2014. The alleged perpetrator, Thierry Marchal-Beck, is quoted as saying that he was “stupefied” by the accusations and threatened possible legal action. It may be too late for the women to press charges under French law.
The shame of France continues. This George Will op-ed will explain the outrageous act by the French court.
As the brother of a sister with mental retardation and a brother who is deaf, I am disgusted.
by George Will
The word “inappropriate” is increasingly used inappropriately.
It is useful to describe departures from good manners or other social norms, such as wearing white after Labor Day or using the salad fork with the entree. But the adjective has become a splatter of verbal fudge, a weasel word falsely suggesting measured seriousness. Its misty imprecision does not disguise, it advertises, the user’s moral obtuseness.
A French court has demonstrated how “inappropriate” can be an all-purpose device of intellectual evasion and moral cowardice. The court said it is inappropriate to do something that might disturb people who killed their unborn babies for reasons that were, shall we say, inappropriate.
Prenatal genetic testing enables pregnant women to be apprised of a variety of problems with their unborn babies, including Down syndrome. It is a congenital condition resulting from a chromosomal defect that causes varying degrees of mental disability and some physical abnormalities, such as low muscle tone, small stature, flatness of the back of the head and an upward slant to the eyes. Within living memory, Down syndrome people were called Mongoloids.
Now they are included in the category called “special needs” people. What they most need is nothing special. It is for people to understand their aptitudes, and to therefore quit killing them in utero.
Down syndrome, although not common, is among the most common congenital anomalies at 49.7 per 100,000 births. In approximately 90 percent of instances when prenatal genetic testing reveals Down syndrome, the baby is aborted. Cleft lips or palates, which occur in 72.6 per 100,000 births, also can be diagnosed in utero and sometimes are the reason a baby is aborted.
In 2014, in conjunction with World Down Syndrome Day (March 21), the Global Down Syndrome Foundation prepared a two-minute video titled “Dear Future Mom” to assuage the anxieties of pregnant women who have learned that they are carrying a Down syndrome baby.
More than 7 million people have seen the video online in which one such woman says, “I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?” Down syndrome children from many nations tell the woman that her child will hug, speak, go to school, tell you he loves you and “can be happy, just like I am — and you’ll be happy, too.”
The French state is not happy about this. The court has ruled that the video is — wait for it — “inappropriate” for French television. The court upheld a ruling in which the French Broadcasting Council banned the video as a commercial. The court said the video’s depiction of happy Down syndrome children is “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices.”
So, what happens on campuses does not stay on campuses. There, in many nations, sensitivity bureaucracies have been enforcing the relatively new entitlement to be shielded from whatever might disturb, even inappropriate jokes.
And now this rapidly metastasizing right has come to this: A video that accurately communicates a truthful proposition — that Down syndrome people can be happy and give happiness — should be suppressed because some people might become ambivalent, or morally queasy, about having chosen to extinguish such lives because…
This is why the video giving facts about Down syndrome people is so subversive of the flaccid consensus among those who say aborting a baby is of no more moral significance than removing a tumor from a stomach. Pictures persuade.
Today’s improved prenatal sonograms make graphic the fact that the moving fingers and beating heart are not mere “fetal material.” They are a baby. Toymaker Fisher-Price, children’s apparel manufacturer OshKosh, McDonald’s and Target have featured Down syndrome children in ads that the French court would probably ban from television.
The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people — and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people — matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles: That the lives of the disabled are not worth living.
Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs.
Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people’s right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.