The French government has proposed to make the legal age of sexual consent 15 after a public outcry over two high-profile cases of rape involving 11-year-old girls, the country’s Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said Monday.

After consultations with the public and the recommendations from a panel of experts, “the government has decided to set the age at 15,” Schiappa said.

According to current French laws, prosecutors have to prove sex under the age of 15 was non-consensual in order to obtain a rape conviction; however, that will change under the new Bill.

The new law would create a threshold, said Schiappa, according to which any sexual activity with a child under the age of 15 will be criminalized and it would be considered the child was coerced.

“I think we must reaffirm the existing law that sets the age of sexual majority at 15, and make sure that there are trials for rape and not for sex assault,” she said.

If the child is under 15 years of age, the new law will put the onus on the adult to prove the minor gave consent, instead of expecting the victim to prove they were threatened, coerced, or surprised.

Lawmakers hope this proposal, which is part of a bill aimed at reducing sexual violence in the country, will be implemented in the coming weeks.

“What characterizes a civilization is also what is outlawed,” the minister said. “The ban on incest must exist and the ban on sexual relations of an adult with a child must exist.”

A debate over the age of sexual consent has been ongoing for several months now, with some suggesting it be lowered to 13. 

The issue of consent was brought to the spotlight after critics and lawmakers said French laws had allowed two adult men to escape charges after they were accused of sex with underage girls.

The reform follows two cases of rape, one in November last year, when a 30-year-old man was acquitted of rape of an 11-year-old girl after the court determined there was no evidence she was subjected to “constraint, threat, violence or surprise.”

In another case involving an 11-year-old girl, a 28-year-old man was charged with sexual relations with a minor, rather than rape, a decision that angered the child’s family. However, in February, the court reversed the decision and said the man should indeed face rape charges, although it asked for the trial to be moved to a higher court.

Schiappa said she was “very glad” the country's government had chosen the age as 15, as recommended by a panel of doctors and legal experts — an age that has been long sought by associations fighting violence against children. 

French President Emmanuel Macron also said he favors setting the limit at 15 years.

“The Bill will contain a clause stating an age limit below which it will always be deemed that a child was forced,” Schiappa said, supporting the reform.