PARIS — The French National Assembly adopted legislation late Monday that characterizes sex between adults and minors under 15 as rape, a move made after years of debate and rounds of sexual abuse scandals gradually pushed lawmakers to bring the French criminal code closer to that of most other Western countries.
“Children are off-limits,” France’s justice minister, Eric Dupont-Moretti, told the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, ahead of the vote on Monday. Under the bill, a sexual relationship with a minor under 15 would be punishable by 20 years in prison, unless the age gap between the consensual partners were small.
The bill, which also includes a provision that would make incest a specific crime, will go to the Senate this month and is expected to get final approval in April. The incest ban would also apply to sexual relationships between children under 18 and their step parents.
That lawmakers agreed on setting an age of consent only three years after having voted against a similar law largely reflects the impact of a series of recent sexual abuse scandals.
fall from grace of a writer who for decades openly engaged in and promoted pedophilia with the support of powerful friends and amid accusations of incest against a prominent French intellectual that surfaced in January.
Fresh allegations of sexual abuse against powerful figures in politics, the arts and the media that fueled new #MeToo movements have also increased pressure on the French government to take action.
“There has been a real shift in the public opinion and an awareness that there is a problem with these sexual violence cases,” said Pierre Verdrager, a sociologist who has studied pedophilia, adding that France had become highly aware of these issues.
Feminists have also contributed to this change in attitude, Mr. Verdrager said, and raised public awareness by speaking out against sexual abuse in the arts and papering Paris with posters denouncing domestic and sexual violence.
French law already prohibited sex between an adult and a minor under the age of 15, but it was not automatically considered rape. Further circumstances, such as the use of coercion, threats, or violence, were necessary to characterize such sexual relationships as rape.
toughened laws against sex crimes and extended the statute of limitations for rape against a minor to 30 years from 20 years, but lawmakers had stopped short of setting an age of sexual consent, citing legal complications.
Some lawmakers, following warnings from France’s Constitutional Council, were worried that setting an age of consent would automatically criminalize sexual relationships between a minor under the age of consent and a person only a few years older. The council reviews legislation to ensure it complies with the French Constitution.
In response, the new bill includes a “Romeo and Juliet” clause that would allow for sexual relationships between a children under 15 and an adult up to five years older. This clause would not apply in rape or assault cases.
“I do not want to put a kid aged 18 on trial because he had a consenting relationship with a girl of 14-and-a-half,” Mr. Dupond-Moretti said.
Alexandra Louis, a French lawmaker supporting the bill, said that the provisions that had been added to bill, such as the Romeo and Juliet clause, gave her hope that the measure would be approved by the Constitutional Council.
Some 300 amendments were discussed but the bill eventually passed unanimously and in one day. Ms. Louis said that the bill had “reached a consensus” and marked “a historic breakthrough.”
The legislation also extends beyond 30 years the statute of limitations for rape of a minor in cases where the adult has raped others, and introduces jail sentences of 10 years and a fine of 150,000 euros, or about $180,000, for anyone convicted of inciting children under the age of 15, via the internet, to commit sexual acts.
“Our task is huge,” Mr. Dupont-Moretti said. “It’s about changing the law to finally, completely and totally protect our children.”
David Newhouse, who as the editor guided The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., to a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story that led to the conviction of the Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing young boys, and to the firing of Joe Paterno, the school’s once-beloved head football coach, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Hanover, N.H. He was 65.
The cause was complications of leukemia, his brother Mark said.
Mr. Newhouse, a member of the powerful publishing family whose best-known media holding is its Condé Nast magazine division, led a modest central Pennsylvania outpost in the Newhouse empire.
But his small city daily gained national attention in March 2011 when a staff writer, Sara Ganim, reported that Mr. Sandusky was being investigated by a grand jury for allegations that he had “indecently assaulted a teenage boy.” The scandal mushroomed that November, when Mr. Sandusky was indicted on charges of sexually abusing eight boys over a 15-year period.
That first article and nine others were cited by the Pulitzer board in 2012 for “courageously revealing and adeptly covering the explosive Penn State sex scandal.”
Peter Shellem that led to the release of five wrongly convicted prisoners.
In November 2011, Mr. Newhouse wrote a column for his newspaper that criticized The New York Times for its handling of an article about one of Mr. Sandusky’s victims. To protect his identity, the individual was referred to as Victim 1 in The Times, as he was in the indictment. But Mr. Newhouse said the article “was so detailed that, even though they do not name him, Googling certain information in the profile results in the young man’s name within seconds.”
Editors at The Times defended the article, but Arthur S. Brisbane, The Times’s public editor at the time, disagreed. Though he acknowledged that certain details about Victim 1 gave readers “a deeper understanding of the boy,” he asked: “Was that reason enough to include them and put his privacy at risk? I don’t believe so.”
About a month after the Pulitzer was awarded, Mr. Newhouse left The Patriot-News to become the editor at large of the family-owned Advance Local, helping to develop websites as the family’s newspapers evolved into digital operations.
His father, Norman, was the editor of the Queens-based Long Island Press and later oversaw The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and other Southern papers owned by his family. Norman was a brother of Samuel I. Newhouse, who started the family in the publishing business. David’s mother, Alice (Gross) Newhouse, was a homemaker.
“We all idolized our father,” Mark Newhouse, the executive vice president of newspapers for his family’s Advance Publications, said in a phone interview. “We grew up thinking that being a newspaperman was the best thing you could aspire to be.”
David Newhouse originally took a different path, however. He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1977 and earned a master’s in film production from Boston University in 1980 and a second master’s, in education, from Tufts University three years later
argued strongly for the resignations of Mr. Paterno and Graham Spanier, Penn State’s president, for doing too little to stop Mr. Sandusky. The editorial took up the entire front page.
Penn State fired both men on Nov. 9, 2011, the day after the editorial ran.
Mr. Sandusky is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years. Mr. Paterno died in 2012.
In addition to his brother Mark, Mr. Newhouse is survived by his wife, Alice Stewart; his daughters, Lily, Hope, Magdalena and Macrina Newhouse; two other brothers, Peter and Jonathan; a sister, Robyn Newhouse; and three grandchildren. His marriage to Katharine Call ended in divorce.