Prosecutors in France deemed that sex between a 28-year-old man and an 11-year-old girl cannot be considered rape as it was "consensual," sparking nationwide outrage.

Since the man did not force the minor into having sex with her, he will only be charged with sexual abuse, which carries a sentence of five years in prison, reports said.

The verdict came despite France setting the age of consent for a minor to be 15 years.

The French Penal Code does not take into account the legal consent age while devising laws for statutory rape.

“Performing without violence, constraint, threat, or surprise, a sexual assault on the person of a minor less than fifteen years old is punishable by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75,000 ($88,340),” it dictates.

According to reports, the man persuaded the girl to follow him to his house from a park in Montmagny, a suburb of Paris. He reportedly told her he would teach her to kiss, but then had sex with her.

Her family claimed she was "paralyzed" with fear and hence could not defend herself, the Independent reported. 

“She thought it was too late, that she didn’t have the right to protest, that it wouldn’t make any difference, so she went into auto pilot, without emotion and without reaction,” the mother said. 

The child's lawyer, Carine Diebolt, told reporters: "Today we should not even have this debate when it comes to a child.”

Children's rights group Le Voix de l’Enfant also said: “The question of consent or its absence should never even be asked when it comes to rape victims who are minors”.

Statutory rape is different than normal rape in the sense that it can involve underage participants who willingly engage in sexual acts.

The act is considered a crime regardless of whether the minor consents, and therefore no force or violence is involved. This is because the underage participant cannot give legal consent to sex.

As far as statutory rape laws in the United States are concerned, an adult having sex with a person below the age of consent is considered a crime.

However, the age of consent varies in different states, which punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child, Find Law reported. 

To cite a few examples, Alabama considers it a “first-degree rape for someone age 16 or older to have sexual intercourse with someone under age 12; second-degree rape for someone age 16 or older to have sexual intercourse with someone between age 12 and 16, when the actor is at least two years older.”

The legal consent age is set at a minimum of 18 years in states such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, Okhlahoma and Tennessee.

This is not the first time that statutory rape laws in France have been questioned.

In 2013, there was a nationwide appeal to lift the statute of limitations on sex crimes, after a woman reported getting raped as a child, 32 years after the crime took place.

“These limitations must be revised when it concerns crimes or assaults on children, because the legislator does not take the psyche into consideration,” the 41-year-old victim told Le Parisien, the Local reported. “The devastation resulting from rape lasts a whole lifetime.”