'Dark year' for France as LGBT+ assaults hit record in 2018

by Elena Berton | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 14 May 2019 16:17 GMT

Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community protest against discrimination and violence, at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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Support group SOS Homophobie recorded a 66% rise in assaults reported to its hotline

By Elena Berton

LONDON, May 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Physical attacks on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in France hit a record in 2018 in a "dark year" for the community, the support group SOS Homophobie said on Tuesday.

Its hotline, which allows victims to anonymously report assaults, recorded an unprecedented 66% hike last year, with 321 cases reported, up from 139 in 2017.

Overall complaints, including harassment and discrimination, rose for the third consecutive year to 1,905 in 2018, up 15% on 2017, it said, most taking place during daily activities - in local public spaces, at work, in school or while shopping.

"These figures are alarming and a wakeup call. They reflect the fact that LGBT people who have been victims of violence and discrimination are speaking up and breaking their silence," SOS Homophobie said in a statement.

"They demonstrate the entrenchment and the persistence of LGBTphobias within French society."

A spate of homophobic attacks in Paris during the latter part of 2018, which were widely publicised by victims on social media, prompted the LGBT+ community to demand urgent government action.

Equality minister Marlene Schiappa responded in November with a plan against LGBT+ violence. But SOS Homophobie said only two out of 10 actions were taken - a letter from the justice ministry to state officials and a school awareness campaign.

The internet and social media were the single largest source of anti-LGBT+ behaviour, leading to 23% of complaints, SOS Homophobie's report found.

On a more positive note, the rise of the #MeToo movement and its French equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc - Expose Your Pig - at the end of 2017 have persuaded women to report more cases of sexual harassment and violence, it said.

As a result, complaints of homophobic behaviour against lesbians jumped 42% to 365 last year - equal to one case a day.

The French interior ministry largely backed SOS Homophobie's findings, with figures released on Tuesday showing law enforcement officials recorded 1,378 victims of homophobic or transphobic acts last year, up 34% on 2017.

The government also pledged to present a new plan to combat LGBT+ discrimination in the coming weeks.

(Reporting by Elena Berton; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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