Since sexual offences have been a hot topic in France after an outpouring of tales of sexual harassment and violence in the MeToo movement, France has approved tougher law measures against sexual offences.
However, leftist lawmakers and feminist groups were unhappy that the law did not set a minimum age below which sexual intercourse would be assumed to be rape.
There has also been anger over a case where media reported that prosecutors had initially declined to charge a man with the rape of an 11-year-old girl on the grounds that she had consented.
“He was at first charged with sexual abuse of a minor, but later placed under investigation for rape,’’ public broadcaster FranceInfo reported.
The new law, which now goes to the Senate for approval, widens the circumstances in which intercourse with a child under 15 could be considered to be rape.
It also doubles the penalty for any sexual intercourse with a child under 15 from five to ten years.
The government said a legal opinion from a state body that assesses new laws meant the law could not declare that any intercourse with a child under 15 should be considered rape.
However, left-wing lawmakers said the government could still have gone further with its text.
The new law, which was passed by 115 votes to 29 in the National Assembly and now goes to the Senate for approval, also provides for the possibility of on-the-spot fines for street harassment.