Thursday, 11 August 2005

Is This REALLY Happening In France?

On the day where demonstrations will be taking place around the world against the recent execution of to Iranian teenagers, most probably, because they were gay, comes a horrific story.

As sad and wrong as that sounds, one is not really suprised when stories such as the one of the execution in Iran appear. We know that some countries are intolerant of homosexuals and have forceful ways of showing it. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Nigeria (northern states), Yemen, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates are all countries where people know they can be killed by the state for who they love.

More disconcerting however is when homophobia rears its head closer to home. The so-called "Land of the Free" is not doing too well in that respect. Even closer, some serious incidents are taking place in Northern Ireland (as I have mentioned before) and only last year, a gay man got killed on the South Bank in London.

Every cloud has its silver lining, we are told and perhaps the fact that these attacts take place AND reach our ears might be seen as encouraging signs. Signs that gay people feel more at ease about showing themselves (pushing homophobes to react even more strongly than before) and signs that they are not afraid anymore of reporting the attacks to the police. I, myself, can see more and more gay couples holding hands in public and this rather far away from the safe haven represented by Soho and its gay scene.

In 1999, France was one of the fist countries in Europe to offer a civil partnership for same-sex couple (PACS). There are currently calls for the outright introduction of marriage with a controversial ceremony taking place last summer.

Despite this apparently progressive approach, France, which calls itself the country of Human Rights, has unfortunately not escaped the recent increase in homophobic attacks manifest in western countries. Last year (January 2004), a man was attacked and burned to the 3rd degree because he was gay, provoking strong reactions all over the country and as high up as from the President de la République. Several other attacks have taken place across the country in the past year of so (near Reims in the East, and in several cities in the South).

It seems rather ironic however that on July 14th, on the day where France celebrates its core republican values of Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité such a violent and unjustified attack should take place.

After being kicked out of a bar in Rambouillet (near Paris), two broke into a house around four in the morning for a simple burglary. Soon however, they find a same-sex couple in bed. With cries of :
"F*ck! Those are faggots. We're going to burn them, we're going to do them in."
, the nighmare begins. One of the victim's testimony speaks for itself (my translation from the article):
"They terrorized us and threatened to cut our dog's throat. They switched on the iron and burned the dog with it," explains Sébastien. "they tied up with the electric wires and we got beaten repeatedly. They burned us several times with the iron. We had to tell them where our cash cards were and give them our pin numbers", explains Sébastien. "And then, while one of them went out to get some money, the other forced my boyfriend and I to have sex. This is when the police intervened and arrested one of our aggressors. We identified the other who already had a record. He has not been arrested yet."


In early december last year, the Assemblé Nationale passed in first reading a bill creating a authoritative body to fight discriminations and promote equalities (HALDE). The bill included articles banning homophobic speech. The text was finally made law on 22 December. During the debates, a deputy of the ring wing presidential majority (Christian Vanneste) called the "homosexual behaviour [...] a threat to the survival of the human race". A few days earlier, an official body advising on human rights (la commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme) had called for the bill to be dropped as (amongst other things) going against the principal of free speech. The right wing member of parliament were of course against the bill saying that if nothing else it was not needed.

Obviously not!

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Having trawled the Internet to find material in English to link to about what I refer too in this post, I had to come to the sad conclusion that these attacks do not get really reported in the English speaking world. Let's hope this post will help change this situation.



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4 comments:

  1. That is shocking and I agree a very saddening thought to think this could be happening in Europe.

    I think the problem with finding articles in English, is that so much of the news is focused from the BBC and Reuters, whom although give great coverage to outside of europe often don't pick up on much with the EU boundary, especially when it comes to gay and lesbian rights.

    Slightly xxx

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  2. Zefrog,

    TCF tends to be pragmatic, reacting to these violent acts (racial too) with calls for temperament, patience, as well as outrage!

    Meaning not to dismiss the incident, labeling it an isolated case in a truly tolerant society, is usually the norm. To be saddened such vile hatred still exist, can be contrast by how effectively civil authorities react and prosecute. To challenge those on the extreme Right for fostering such ignorance, has more influence than you know.

    I can confirm this scenario given many recent events in a Conservative America. Keep your readers informed as to how a more tolerant France handles it.

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