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France sees 78 percent rise in homophobic acts
Wilfred de Bruijn (left), a gay man beaten in Paris in April 2013. Raphael le Clerc (right), a gay man beaten on leaving a bar in Nice two weeks later. Photos: W. DeBruijn/R. LeClerc

France sees 78 percent rise in homophobic acts

Published: 13 May 2014 19:03 GMT+02:00

In 2013 there was a homophobic physical attack every two days in France, which represented a rise of 54 percent on 2012.

That is just one of the worrying stats contained in a new report by French gay-rights organisation SOS Homophobie, which monitors the levels of homophobia in the country.

The stand out figure revealed that on the whole, reported acts of homophobia in France rose by 78 percent in the same year that the country legalised gay marriage.

SOS Homophobie say they received 3,500 calls to its helpline in 2013 compared to 1, 977 in 2012, which already represented a 27 percent rise on calls received in 2011.  

As there are no corresponding figures released by the interior or justice ministries, the SOS Homophobie statistics are the sole barometer of the level of homophobia in France.

“In the last twenty years the number of reports of incidents [of homophobia] received by our association have not stopped growing, but in 2013 they exploded,” the group's report read.

According to the watchdog the huge surge in the number of homophobic incidents was without doubt linked to the bitter row over the legalisation of gay marriage, which divided France and led to mass demonstrations that frequently ended in violent clashes between police and extremists.

For the association the legalisation of gay marriage was without doubt positive but it left a bitter taste.

“There’s no doubt the rise in homophobic acts was linked to the context of the opposition against gay marriage,” Gregory Premon, from SOS Homophobie told The Local on Tuesday. “Homophobic words and statements became trivialised during this period and helped legitimize insults and homophobic violence.

“In recent months homophobic speech has become totally uninhibited in all spheres of society,” the organisation added in a statement.

It wasn’t just homophobic words and insults that were pinned on the anti-gay marriage movement that was led by the Manif Pour Tous group.

The campaign was blamed for a number of high profile attacks on members of the gay community, including the savage beating of Wilfred de Bruijn (see photo above) and his boyfriend Olivier in Paris in April 2012 as well as the assault of Raphael le Clerca gay man (see photo above), who was beaten and kicked unconscious as he left a bar in the southern city of Nice.

Speaking at the time of the two attacks the former president of SOS Homophobie Elizabeth Ronzier told The Local: "These people say they are not homophobic but they are. Homophobia has become trivialized, which is proved by the number of verbal assaults on gay people, which often to lead to physical assaults.”

Other data that the new report highlighted was the number of homophobic insults on the internet which rose from 1,723 cases compared to 656 in 2012.

The number of incidents reported that took place in a school environment also rose by 25 percent.

For SOS Homophobie’s Gregory Premon it is in schools where the battle against homophobia must begin.

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Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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