What does the legislation say?

The legislative framework pertaining to the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children is of great importance. Indeed, it requires States that are signatories to various international agreements to implement the provisions of these treaties supporting child protection.
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International and Regional scope

The normative instruments for the fight against the commercial sexual exploitation of children are, for the most part, fairly recent. They reflect the international community’s awareness, since the 90’s, on the importance of fighting against commercial sexual exploitation of children, as well as the fight against sexual violence to children. The struggle to combat such exploitation is strengthened with the development of specialized new legal instruments, originating in the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring member states to protect children from this form of exploitation.

Following the international community’s mobilization on this issue, during World Congresses against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, in the 2000’s additional protocols to conventions have clarified the actions that member states have to implement to ensure practical application of standards and norms for the protection of children. Today, there are many documents which differ by their degree of specialization and mandatory nature. Indeed, some instruments are of international scope, whereas others apply on a regional scope. Some pertain to the well-being of children in general, while others are specifically addressing the issue of sexual exploitation of children or a related theme to human trafficking. Some provisions impose obligations on states, while others guide them to coordinate efforts without imposing a binding force of legislation on states.

The Law in France

The “French criminal law” provides specific measures to fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children. These measures will help protect child victims, deemed to be at risk by the law, and punish the perpetrators of violation against children.

Recourse to minors’ prostitution within or outside of France

 The French criminal law recognizes recourse to minor’s prostitution as a criminal offence.Soliciting, accepting or obtaining, in exchange for a remuneration or a promise of a remuneration,sexual relations with a minor who is engaging in prostitution, even if not regularly, is punished by three years’ imprisonment and a fine of € 45,000. The penalty is increased to seven years’ imprisonment and to a fine of € 100,000 where the minor is less than fifteen years of age (according to Article 225-12-1 of the French criminal law).  Where the misdemeanours referred to under articles 225-12-1 are committed abroad by a French national or by a person habitually resident on French territory, French law is still applicable. Indeed, the French criminal law provides an extraterritorial application of this article 225-12-1, derogating from the ordinary law, in order to combat sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism as well as the impunity of certain individuals sexually abusing minors abroad ( according to article 225-12-3 of the French criminal law).

 Human trafficking for sexual purposes

Human trafficking is the recruitment, transport, transfer, accommodation, or reception of a person in exchange for remuneration or any other benefit or for the promise of remuneration or any other benefit, in order to put him at the disposal of a third party, whether identified or not, so as to permit the commission against that person of offences of procuring, sexual assault or attack, exploitation for begging, or the imposition of living or working conditions inconsistent with human dignity, or to force this person to commit any felony or misdemeanour (according to article 225-4-1 of the French criminal law). Human trafficking is punished by seven years’ imprisonment and by a fine of €150,000. Trafficking of children is recognized as an aggravating circumstance. When the offence under article 225-4-1 is committed against a minor, it is punished by 10 years’ imprisonment and by a fine of €1,500,000. Attempt to commit such offences is punished by the same penalties. Also, the French criminal law provides an extraterritorial application of this article 225-4-1.

Child pornography

In France, taking, recording or transmitting a picture or representation of a minor with a view to circulating it, where that image or representation has a pornographic character, is punished by five years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75,000. Attempting to do so is subject to the same penalties (according to article 227-23 of the French criminal law). The penalties are increased to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine of €100,000 where use was made of a communication network for the circulation of messages to an unrestricted public in order to circulate the image or representation of a minor. Possessing such an image or representation is punished by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €30,000. The provisions of the present article also apply to the pornographic images of a person whose physical appearance is that of a minor unless it is proved that the person was over eighteen on the day his picture was taken or recorded.

Solicitation of children for sexual purposes

In France, solicitation of children for sexual purposes or “child grooming”, occurs when an adult, by any electronic or other communication facilities, knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 15 years, to engage in any sexual activity. It is punished by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €30,000. The penalties are increased to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of €75,000 where solicitations were followed by a meeting (according to article 227-22-1).

Extraterritorial Laws

France, as well as many European countries, has passed extraterritorial legislation, derogating from the ordinary legislation, in order to prosecute and convict nationals or usual residents on French territory, perpetrators of child sexual abuse situated outside the national territory. Thus, an individual who has committed child sexual abuse abroad can be prosecuted on-the-spot but also when he returns from his/her journey.

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