OPINION: Progress yes, but not yet equality for lesbian families in France

by Evgenia Giakoumopoulou | EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community
Friday, 4 October 2019 20:38 GMT

Amandine Giraud and her wife Laurene Corral pose with their children Makenzy and Leandre conceived with fertility assistance during an interview with Reuters in Paris, France, September 25, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

France is debating a law to extend IVF to lesbian couples and single women, but lesbians have not been consulted about their rights

Evgenia Giakoumopoulou is a human rights expert, lesbian activist and a spokesperson for the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community (EL*C) - a collective of lesbian, queer, bi and trans women advocating for lesbian rights in Europe and Central Asia

Waving the flag of the presumably perfect heterosexual nuclear family, a herd of homophobes clad in gender-conforming pink and blue hoodies is getting ready to march. The very same ones who invaded the streets and screens of France in 2012-13, when marriage equality for LGBT+ people was being debated.

Only this time the movement is running out of steam. Yet some journalists have been recycling images in anticipation, and irresponsibly blowing on the embers of the 2013 fiasco, hoping to revive the media frenzy.

Why now? Because of what did not happen in 2013.

While the law on marriage equality and adoption was passed, the government yielded on one point – the reproductive rights of same-sex parents and the recognition of children born within same-sex households.

More specifically, it did not extend the right to same-sex parents to opt for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment, barring single women and lesbian couples from using methods commonly used for straight infertile married pairs.

Politically speaking, it simply did not cost much to sacrifice the rights of women, and even less so of lesbians. It was an easy bargain in our structurally sexist, misogynist and lesbophobic society.

Except lesbian families already exist. And the legal vacuum in which they have existed has forced mothers to adopt their own children through lengthy and uncertain court proceedings, and at times, has separated mothers from their children following a divorce, or the death of the biological mother.

Six years later, the French parliament is finally presented with a draft bill that includes extending IVF to all women. (This time it is the lives and families of trans parents that are put on hold.)

The discussion centred around the status of the second mother. Is this law putting lesbian families on equal footing with heterosexual ones? The creation of a specific regime for lesbians suggests that it is not.

Lesbians are ironically the last to be consulted about their rights.

When President Macron held talks with the civil society to discuss the terms of the new law, no lesbian organisation was invited. We therefore invited ourselves.

But beyond the discrimination, postponing the recognition of full and equal parental rights means reopening the debate – and facing once more some of the noxious arguments.

A leader of the main right-wing party in France recently described IVF as a dangerous slide towards Nazi eugenics. The violence sparked by such vile discourse is real and should not be belittled.

SOS Homophobie, a French NGO that records anti-LGBT+ incidents, reported that aggressions increased by 78% in 2013 when marriage equality was passed. In 2018, lesbophobic incidents almost doubled compared with the previous year, increasing 42%.

The same thing is observed every time LGBT+ rights are discussed and hate speech is tolerated.

Sadly, the ripples of such policies are felt beyond the borders of France.

When a self-proclaimed paragon of human rights chooses to actively discriminate, it sets a precedent. Switzerland is now debating same-sex marriage, and, following the French model, it is not planning to extend the right to medically assisted procreation to lesbians.

An entire generation of Swiss women will have to sit and watch as their chances of pregnancy diminish month after month, until some politicians decide that treating lesbians and their families with dignity is safe for their political ambition.

Not to mention Serbia, where an openly lesbian prime minister recently became a mother when her partner delivered their child, does not have any rights over that child, and yet does not plan to do anything about it.

Political ambition trumps once again lesbian rights.

Lesbians are underrepresented; our organisations underfunded. But we are raising our voices louder and taking a seat at the table, to challenge the many forms of oppression we face, and to defend our pan-European and Central Asian notion of social justice, freedom and equal rights for all.