France takes historic step towards reparations for homosexual discrimination

The bill, adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on Wednesday 6 March, aims to recognize the responsibility of the French State

In a landmark move, the French Assembly has unanimously passed, on first reading, a bill aimed at recognizing and compensating the damages suffered by homosexuals due to discriminatory laws enforced between 1942 and 1982. This historic decision comes after the Senate’s approval, setting a precedent for acknowledging the injustices of the past and making amends.

The road to equality

The pivotal year of 1982 marked the end of a French law that prohibited homosexual relationships between an adult and a minor over fifteen years old, a measure put in place by the Vichy government in 1942. Furthermore, France ceased to classify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1981, a perspective the World Health Organization did not abandon until May 1993. Until that year, thousands were convicted for homosexuality in France, highlighting a long history of discrimination now being addressed through rehabilitation and state acknowledgment.

Discrimination in the ‘900s and apologies

The discrimination faced by homosexuals between 1942 and 1982 primarily stemmed from two articles in the penal code. One set a specific age of consent for homosexual acts, while the other imposed harsher penalties for public indecencies committed by individuals of the same sex.

Recently, the Assembly reinstated financial compensation for those convicted of homosexuality during this period and established a commission to review reparation requests, reversing a decision by the Senate to remove these provisions. Initially advocated by Senator Hussein Bourgi, the bill received unanimous support from 331 deputies, though some expressed reservations about the principle of financial compensation.

A “completely unjust repression”

In his introductory speech, Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti issued an apology on behalf of the French Republic to those who suffered under these unjust laws:

“It’s time to (…) say tonight on behalf of the French Republic: forgiveness, forgiveness to the people, to the homosexuals of France who have suffered for 40 years under this completely unjust repression. Our Republic is never as beautiful as when it recognizes it has strayed from its founding principles of liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Echoing the steps taken by Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, and Canada, Deputy Hervé Saulignac, the bill’s rapporteur, emphasized that recognition must come with compensation. The bill now moves to the Senate for a second reading.

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