French Senate approves bill on sexual assault to protect minors after Olivier Duhamel scandal


The French Senate on Thursday approved a new bill to protect minors from sexual abuse following a controversy over incest.

The bill criminalizes the act of an adult inflicting any act of sexual penetration on minors under the age of 13, and punishable by 20 years in prison.

The bill now requires the approval of the National Assembly to become law.

The vote came after the country was hit earlier this month by a scandal involving prominent political commentator Olivier Duhamel, accused of raping his stepson as a teenager.

Mr. Duhamel called the allegations “personal attacks”.

Several public figures have spoken on the issue, including First Lady Brigitte Macron who called Sunday for judicial reform to fight incest.

Originally submitted to the Senate in December, last-minute amendments were made to the bill in the wake of the incest scandal, including tougher sentences.

He considers incest to be an aggravating factor, which could lead to up to ten additional years in prison and a fine of £ 130,000.

Another key element of the new legislation is the statute of limitations within which victims can sue, which has been reduced from 6 years to 10 years in cases of sexual assault and 20 years in cases of rape.

“I am a doctor, and I am the mother of three daughters, so I am very concerned by the issue of child sexual abuse” Senator Marie Mercier, rapporteur for the Senate Law Committee, who defended the bill. “French law already protects children, but this new bill can be credited with creating more clarity and adding more protection.”

The allegations against Mr Duhamel were made public earlier in January by his stepdaughter Camille Kouchner. The release of a book describing the alleged abuse sparked a wave of reports of incest abuse on social media, with users using the hashtag #MeTooInceste.

Leading French cartoonist Xavier Gorce said on Wednesday he would no longer work for Le Monde after the newspaper apologized for a drawing he drew that addressed the controversy with a drawing of two penguins.

The smaller penguin asks the other, “If I was abused by the adoptive half-brother of my transgender father’s partner who has now become my mother, is that incest?”

Apologizing to readers, Le Monde editor-in-chief Caroline Monnot said the cartoon should not have been published.

The latest developments are an indicator of the struggle of the French intellectual elite to deal with issues of sexual consent and prevailing societal taboos.

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