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France reports 36 percent rise in victims of anti-LGBT attacks, offences

A demonstrator wears a sticker reading "Homophobia kills" during a gathering to protest against homophobia on November 3, 2018 in the northwestern French city of Rouen.
A demonstrator wears a sticker reading "Homophobia kills" during a gathering to protest against homophobia on November 3, 2018 in the northwestern French city of Rouen. © CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

Homophobic attacks and insults in France rose by 36 percent last year, according to figures released by the Interior Ministry on Saturday, prompting the government to talk of an "anchoring" of homophobia in the country.

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The leap comes after 2018 was described as a "black" year by associations with an unequalled level of physical violence against LGBT people.

The new figures, which show a steady increase in offences, come on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17, and 30 years after the withdrawal of homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, the police "identified 1,870 victims of homophobic or transphobic offences compared to 1,380 in 2018", representing a "36 percent increase in the number of victims of anti-LGBT acts", the ministry said in a statement.

"These figures testify to the deep anchoring of homophobia and transphobia in society," said the ministry, adding that they form part of a broader increase in "hate acts and identity extremism".

Insults constitute 33 percent of the offences, while violence (physical and sexual) make up 28 percent of the complaints.

The victims are mainly men - 75 percent - with 62 percent perpetrated against those under 35 years of age.

LGBT associations claim that the figures do not tell the whole story as many victims do not report crimes to the police. The SOS Homophobia association is due to publish its own figures on Monday.

Mainly in big cities

The report shows that the incidents of homophobia are spread across the country with 36 percent of the complaints coming in the big cities.

"This shows us that there is homophobia throughout the territory, including in rural areas," Frederic Potier, the interministerial delegate for the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hatred (Dilcrah) told AFP.

The world of sport comes under the microscope after several top football matches were interrupted because of homophobic chants from the stands or the display of abusive banners.

The Interior Ministry, which called on Saturday for "increased vigilance by the public authorities" and more effort from society as a whole, recorded around 30 complaints concerning insults or threats made on the internet.

French lawmakers on Wednesday approved a controversial bill to ban hate speech on social media, a measure dismissed as censorship by detractors.

The law obliges platforms and search engines to remove offensive content - incitement to hate or violence and racist or religious bigotry - within 24 hours or risk a fine of up to 1.25 million euros ($1.35 million).

(AFP)

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