Fight against sexual abuse and exploitation of children
Sexual violence and abuse against children can have serious consequences for the victims and cause long-term trauma. The new legal provisions seek to remedy this situation:
- Sentences for sexual abuse have been increased.
- The statute of limitations for sexual offences against children has been extended.
- The rape of a child is no longer subject to a statute of limitations.
Sexual abuse of children and teenagers is not only happening in real life, but is increasingly taking place online (digital space), e.g. grooming, collecting child pornography photos and videos, streaming sexual abuse or sexual blackmail on the net. The new law on sexual violence does not distinguish between online and offline abuse, and the penalties have been strengthened and the statute of limitations extended to cover all situations. The Criminal Code has been adapted to comply with international commitments on the protection of minors and to close the gaps that have arisen as a result of major technological developments.
Main elements of the new law
In summary, the new law contains the following main elements:
Definition of consent to a sexual act
- Criminalisation and effective punishment of any non-consensual sexual act, including when the victim has not opposed physical resistance.
- Consent may be withdrawn at any time before or during the sexual act.
More accurate definition of rape and creation of the separate offence of "rape of a minor"
- Any act of sexual penetration committed on a minor under the age of 16 is classified as rape, as the minor cannot consent to it and the adult cannot engage in it under any pretext. (With the exception of the "teenage love" clause for minors aged between 13 and less than 16 years, where the age gap with the other person is no more than 4 years).
- The scope of application has been extended to digital space.
- Rape of a minor: It is specified that the act may be committed "on a person who does not consent to it or with the help of a person who does not consent to it", in order to cover the situation where it is the victim who is induced or forced to commit an act of sexual penetration on the person of the perpetrator, i.e. the person who orders it, on his or her own body or on the body of a third person.
"Indecent assault" becomes "sexual assault"
- Sexual assault involves performing a sexual act on or with the help of a person, or causing a sexual act to be performed by a person who does not consent to it. The same penalties may apply when the victim is unable to give free consent or to oppose resistance.
- It should be noted that the article specifies that the offence may be committed on the person or with the assistance of the person concerned, including when the person concerned is induced to perform a sexual act on his or her own body or that of a third party. The offence is therefore also committed when the victim is induced to perform a sexual act on the perpetrator, on his or her own body or on that of a third party.
Penalties for incestuous relationships to be extended to a minor's confidants
- Any sexual assault committed by one of the parents, by a legitimate, natural or adoptive ascendant, by any person in a collateral line up to the third degree, or by any relative up to the third degree, will be punishable by 5 to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of 251 to 75,000 euros.
- The same penalties apply if the sexual assault was committed by the person with whom the above-mentioned persons live or habitually lived.
- The same penalties apply if the sexual assault was committed by any person in a position of authority over the minor victim, by a person abusing the authority conferred by his or her position or a recognised position of trust or influence, or by any person to whom the minor has been entrusted and who is responsible for the minor.
Increased statute of limitations and no statute of limitations for the most serious crimes
|Offence||Statute of limitations|
|Sexual assault on a minor aged 16 or older||10 years from the age of majority|
Sexual assault on a minor over the age of 16
|Incestuous sexual assault on a minor||30 years from the age of majority|
Rape of a minor
No statute of limitations