French minister apologises to LGBTQ+ community for historic ‘repression’

French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti

A French minister has apologised to the country’s LGBTQ+ community for the way they were treated between 1942 and 1982.

Following the introduction of a bill that seeks to compensate the victims of past anti-gay laws, justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti issued an apology “on behalf of the French Republic”.

“Sorry to the people – the homosexual people of France – who, for 40 years, suffered this totally unfair repression,” he said.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in France in 1791 during the French Revolution. However, an unequal age of consent was introduced by the Nazi-backed Vichy government during World War Two, raising the age of consent to 21 for same-sex sexual activity. It was eventually equalised in 1982.

LGBTQ+ people in France were also persecuted in the latter half of the 20th century under a public indecency law introduced in 1960.

This is an image of the Eifel Tower in Paris, France. It is an overcast day. There is a large group of people in the foreground and we can see French flags flying.
It’s estimated that tens of thousands of LGBTQ people – mostly gay men – were persecuted under past French laws. (Getty)

The new compensation bill was unanimously approved by the lower house of the French parliament overnight but must now be examined by the senate, which has previously approved recognising the harm inflicted on LGBTQ+ people from 1942 onwards, but has so-far resisted calls for compensation and reparations.

You may like to watch

It is estimated that at least 10,000 people – mostly gay men – were convicted under anti-gay laws during the four decades of repression, with 50,000 more convicted under public indecency laws. Although many have died, the BBC reported that as many as 400 could be eligible for compensation.

Michel Chomarat, 75, was arrested during a raid on a gay bar in in Paris in 1977 and convicted under the law. “I’ve been fighting for almost 50 years because I never accepted being arrested and sentenced,” France 24 quoted him as saying.

The vote was a “nice surprise”, Terrence Katchadourian, the secretary-general of Stop Homophobie, told AFP.

“The fact that France is asking for forgiveness… sends a beautiful message worldwide,” he said.

Joël Deumier, the co-president of SOS Homophobie, echoed that sentiment, saying the vote sent an “extremely strong signal” but noted that “there can be no recognition without reparations”.

Last week, France’s parliament also voted to enshrine abortion in the constitution, with president Emmanuel Macron officially signing the amendment on Friday.

Please login or register to comment on this story.