Gay man beaten and abducted for two hours in homophobic attack shocks France

The latest homophobic attack in France has prompted President Emmanuel Macron and the government to commit to more action to tackle increasing rates of anti-gay crime in the country.

A 34-year-old man, named as Romain in the French press in order to protect his identity, was attacked after a night out on October 24. Details of his ordeal have shocked the country.

Roman told French LGBT+ news outlet GayViking he had gone to a club in Rouen, a city in the northern region of Normandy, with some other gay friends. He said he and his friend met two other men, whom he continued partying with after his friends decided to go home.

Romain accepted the men’s invitation to an after-party at another friend’s home, but when he got inside their car, he became trapped. The man sitting in the passenger’s seat moved to the back of the car and started hitting him furiously.

“Punches in the face, on the body, everywhere. The strength was such that my head was bouncing against the window like a ball. I was scared, I didn’t know what was happening, I thought I was going to die,” Romain recalled.

Unable to leave the car, Romain was subject to the men’s violence and homophobic slurs for two hours.

Supporters of LGBT rights hold a banner saying “Homophobia kills,” during a rally in 2012 in Toulouse, southern France. (Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

Romain told GayViking he thought he’d become one of those people the newspapers talk about: “Young man killed because of his homosexuality.”

During the attack, Romain’s wallet fell out of his pocket and the two men decided to demand he took out money from a cash machine. Not happy with that, they then demanded he take out €1,500 (£1,300) in cash from a bank, which by that time had opened. After a bank employee denied the sudden request, the two men left Romain unattended, so he took the opportunity to ask for help and end his ordeal.

Doctors recommended Romain to allow for 10 days of rest for his numerous injuries to heal. After he decided to go public with his story, images of his bloodshot eyes and bruised face, back and hands aired on television channels and news outlets, prompting outrage and calls for the government to take action.

Social media users reacted with outrage at the images of Romain’s battered body. (Screenshot/Twitter)

“Homophobic violence must be a concern for our entire society. They are unworthy of France. Concrete measures will be announced but cannot replace the humanity and tolerance that are at the heart of our culture,” Macron said in a statement published on his official social media accounts on October 29.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner, justice minister Nicole Belloubet and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa met with the association SOS Homophobie on Tuesday (October 30) to discuss the situation.

SOS Homophobie, which works to raise awareness against LGBTphobia and support victims, had recently organised a demonstration in Paris along with the Inter-LGBT group to denounce the increasing number of anti-gay attacks.

The groups are calling for the introduction of policies such as a national awareness campaign about homophobia, transphobia and biphobia, and mandatory training addressing discrimination for teachers, police and other officials.

According to SOS Homophobie, there has been a 15 percent increase in reports of anti-LGBT physical assaults between 2017 and 2018—with at least three homophobic attacks, including Romain’s, making headlines this month alone.

Members of SOS Homophobie took part in a vigil in Paris on June 12, 2016, to mourn for victims of the Pulse shooting. (Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty)

Last week, the president of LGBT charity Urgence Homophobie, Guillaume Melanie, was attacked near the Etienne Marcel Metro station in Paris’ 1st arrondissement. The week before, comedian Arnaud Gagnoud and his boyfriend were also hit by strangers on the street—an attack that mimicked the dynamic of one suffered by another gay couple in Paris in September.

Speaking to PinkNews earlier this month, SOS Homophobie President Joël Deumier noted that, since June, there have been a series of “disturbing” attacks throughout the country.

According to him, the narrative around LGBT+ people in France has recently worsened due to an ongoing debate around changing the law to make assisted reproductive technology available to both single women and women in same-sex relationships.

“This homophobic speech against homosexual parenthood and LGBT people is carried out by the church, by the Conference of the Bishops of France, by La Manif pour Tous [an organisation that campaigns against same-sex marriage]. These have real consequences for society, legitimising homophobia and encouraging people to [turn words] into actions,” Deumier said at the time.