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ZGram - 12/29/2004 - "Hate in France"

zgrams at zgrams.zundelsite.org
Wed Dec 29 07:18:26 EST 2004




ZGram - Where Truth is Destiny:  Now more than ever!

December 29, 2004

Good Morning from the Zundelsite:

Santa Claus brought France a special Christmas present - new 
legislation aimed at "curbing rising homophobia" and sexist/anti-gay 
insults:

[START]

[START]

Jon Henley in Paris
Friday December 24, 2004

Guardian
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,11882,1379536,00.html>http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,11882,1379536,00.html

The French parliament yesterday definitively adopted legislation that 
could lead to year-long jail terms for anyone found guilty of 
insulting homosexuals or women.

The justice minister, Dominique Perben, believes the laws are 
necessary to combat an increase in homophobia, but they have been 
condemned by advocates of free speech who say they are too strict and 
unworkable.

The law puts anti-gay and sexist comments on an equal footing with 
racist or anti-semitic insults, allowing French courts to hand down 
fines of up to ¤45,000 (£30,000) and jail sentences of up to 12 
months for "defamation or incitement to discrimination, hatred or 
violence on the grounds of a person's sex or sexual orientation".

Proferring an anti-gay insult, including any remark "of a more 
general nature tending to denigrate homosexuals as a whole", in 
public - meaning on air, in print or at a public meeting - is also an 
imprisonable offence, while private sexist or homophobic taunts 
between individuals could incur fines of up to ¤375.

Gay and feminist groups have welcomed the law, which is in part a 
response to a significant increase in verbal and physical attacks 
recorded against homosexuals in France.

The number of violent acts against gays doubled to 86 in 2003.

"It's great and welcome news," said Ronan Rosec of the campaign group 
SOS Homophobie.

"Gays in France just do not want to be abused, physically or 
verbally, any more."

Another gay rights organisation, Inter-LGBT, said the law marked "the 
crossing of a decisive bridge" for France.

The feminist group Les Chiennes de Garde, or Guard Bitches, added 
that it hoped the law would lead to a fall in the number of physical 
attacks on women "by first outlawing verbal violence".

But the legislation, which also establishes an impartial body, the 
High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality, to help 
victims of bias, has drawn as much criticism as praise, particularly 
from advocates of free speech who say it will be difficult to enforce 
and will lead to self-censorship.

In theory, critics say, the law could mean that devout Christians who 
denounce homosexuality as "deviant" would be prosecuted; comedians 
can no longer make mother-in-law jokes; the producers and 
distributors of the camp comedy film La Cage Aux Folles could end up 
in the dock; and parts of the Old Testament might be banned.

The media campaign group Reporters Without Borders said a society 
"advances towards tolerance ... via freedom of expression and debate, 
and not through repression".

The Catholic church in France also expressed concern that the law 
might prevent clergymen from expressing their opposition to 
legalising gay marriage.

Even the national commission on human rights, a government advisory 
body, has criticised the law, arguing that courts "will face great 
difficulty defining what is an insult, and will thus have to condemn 
words ... certain films, books and even the Bible could fall under 
its remit."

The Book of Leviticus, for example, describes male homosexuality as 
"an abomination".

In an attempt to allay such fears, Inter-LGBT says it will prosecute 
only "genuinely scandalous remarks ... cases that we are certain to 
win, and guaranteeing an educational effect".

But SOS Homophobie and Act-Up have both said they consider that 
describing homosexuality as "abnormal" is an insult under the terms 
of the new law.

French judges say they expect "an avalanche" of complaints under the 
legislation, particularly in its early days, and acknowledge that 
there are bound to be significant differences of interpretation and 
appreciation.

"We will have to try to preserve the freedom of expression while 
respecting the law," said François Cordier, a Paris public prosecutor.

"Day-to-day insults against gays must be punished, as must incitement 
to violence, hatred, discrimination. But we cannot deny every 
monotheistic religion an opinion on homosexuality."

Mr Cordier said it would take some time before an accepted 
jurisprudence emerged.

"The courts will have somehow to draw a line between opinions that 
might be shocking but must be allowed to be expressed in a democracy, 
and speech that is undeniably homophobic," he said. "It will not 
always be easy."

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