French petition against age of consent laws

In 1977, a petition was addressed to the French parliament calling for the abrogation of several articles of the age of consent law and the decriminalization of all consensual relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen (the age of consent in France). A number of French leftist intellectuals - including such prominent names as Louis Aragon, Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Simone de Beauvoir, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Michel Leiris, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Philippe Sollers, Jacques Rancière, Jean-François Lyotard, Francis Ponge, and various prominent doctors and psychologists - signed the petition. In 1979 two open letters were published in French newspapers defending individuals arrested under charges of statutory rape, in the context of abolition of age of consent laws.

The petition

Michel Foucault stated that the petition was signed by himself, by the novelist/gay activist Guy Hocquenghem, the actor/play-writer/jurist Jean Danet, pediatrician and child psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto and also by people belonging to a wide range of political positions.[1]

On April 4, 1978, a conversation detailing the reasons for their pro-abolition positions was broadcast by radio France Culture in the program "Dialogues". The participants, Michel Foucault, Jean Danet and Guy Hocquenghem, had all signed the 1977 petition, along with other intellectuals.[1] They believed that the penal system was replacing the punishment of criminal acts by the creation of the figure of the individual dangerous to society (regardless of any actual crime), and predicted that a "society of dangers" would come. They also have defined the idea of legal consent as a contractual notion and a "trap", since "no one makes a contract before making love".[1] The conversation has been published as “Sexual Morality and the Law” and later reprinted as "The Danger of Child Sexuality".[2]

Publication of open letters

An open letter signed by 69 people was published in Le Monde, on the eve of the trial of three Frenchmen, (Bernard Dejager, Jean-Claude Gallien, and Jean Burckardt), all accused of having sex with 13- and 14-year-old girls and boys. Two of them had then been in temporary custody since 1973 and the letter referred to this fact as scandalous.[3] The letter claimed there was a disproportion between the qualification of their acts as a crime and the nature of the reproached acts, and also a contradiction since adolescents in France were fully responsible for their acts from the age of 13. The text also opined that if 13-year-old girls in France had the right to receive the pill, then they also should be able to consent.[3]

A similar letter was published in the paper Libération in 1979, supporting Gérard R., an accused child sex criminal awaiting his trial for eighteen months, signed by 63 persons, stating that Gérard R. lived with young girls aged 6 to 12 and that they were happy with the situation. The letter was later reproduced in the paper L'Express, in the issue of March 7, 2001.[4]

See also


  1. Sexual Morality and the Law, Chapter 16 of Politics, Philosophy, Culture –Interviews and Other Writings 1977-1984. Edited by Lawrence D. Krizman. New York/London: 1990, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-90149-9, p.275
  2. "The Danger of Child Sexuality – an interview with Michel Foucault" (PDF). Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  3. "Le Monde of January 26, 1977". Retrieved 2011-01-30.
  4. "Quelques pétitions ou lettres ouvertes pas sans équivoque". L'Express (in French). March 1979. Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
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