Macron vows to change law to protect children from abuse

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to tighten laws on child sex abuse after a high-profile scandal sparked nationwide outrage and thousands took to social media to share their own experiences of abuse.

“We are here. We are listening to you. We believe you. And you will never be alone again,” Macron said in a short video on Twitter on Saturday. “We need to adapt our law to better protect children who are victims of incest and sexual violence.”

The president directed Justice Minister Éric Dupont-Moretti and Secretary of State for Children and the Family Adrien Taquet to hold discussions aimed at making legislative proposals as soon as possible. He also announced evaluation meetings in primary and secondary schools to see if children have been abused. Those who have been abused will benefit from a total reimbursement of the cost of therapy.

The move comes after a scandal involving Olivier Duhamel, one of France’s most prominent political scientists and a former Socialist MEP, that rocked the establishment and caused widespread anger.

In a book released in early January, lawyer Camille Kouchner accused Duhamel, her stepfather, of sexually abusing her twin brother when they were teenagers. “I am revealing nothing in this book,” she wrote. “Everyone knows.”

Kouchner wrote that Duhamel started sexually abusing her brother in 1988, when he was 13, telling him that “everyone does this.”

Following the revelations, suspicions grew about who might have known about the allegations before they were revealed to the public, which led to the resignation of several key players in French politics. Élisabeth Guigou, a former justice minister, quit her role on a government-mandated committee on sexual violence against children, while Marc Guillaume left Science-Po’s elite school’s advisory board. Both were close to Duhamel.

Thousands of people also shared their own stories of sexual abuse using hashtags such as #metooinceste and #metoogay.

Establishing in law an age threshold, below which a minor would be considered unable to consent to a sexual act and the adult considered a criminal, has been a sensitive subject in France for years. The debate being held in the country’s parliamentary chambers. The Senate recently gave its backing to a bill that would make the age of consent 13, which sparked controversy among some associations protecting children’s rights. Other texts are being discussed in the National Assembly.

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