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Liberty, equality, LGBT: rights in the balance in France's election

People hold French national flags as they gather to protest against the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party, in Paris, France, June 30, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
explainer

People hold French national flags as they gather to protest against the French far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally - RN) party, in Paris, France, June 30, 2024. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

What’s the context?

Rights groups fear a far-right win in France' elections could stall progress and fuel anti-LGBTQ+ violence

  • Far-right party wins first round of parliamentary election
  • Rights groups fear rise in anti-LGBTQ+ violence
  • Second round run-off takes place July 7

BRUSSELS - Rights activists say a possible far-right National Rally (RN) win in the second round of French parliamentary elections on Sunday could threaten progress on LGBTQ+ rights and fuel anti-LGBTQ+ violence.

Marine Le Pen's socially conservative RN party, which has spoken out against LGBTQ+ equality, made historic gains in the first round of the polls on June 30 and could well win a parliamentary majority.

Much will depend on deals between rival parties that have vowed to avert an RN victory by withdrawing candidates from hundreds of election run-offs so as not to split the vote against the far-right party.

Here's what you need to know:

What does France's far-right say on LGBTQ+ rights?

The RN has voted against progressive LGBTQ+ rights legislation, both in France's two houses of parliament, and in the European parliament.

The RN has also opposed same-sex adoption, surrogacy and in-vitro fertilisation for lesbian couples, as well as a ban on practices that seek to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, known as "conversion therapy".

However, the party has sought to reposition itself, including gay members among its ranks and saying it wants to combat homophobia.

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How is the campaign affecting anti-LGBTQ violence?

Just hours after the RN made big gains in the European election in June, four men in Paris launched a homophobic assault on a teenager. The four told police they were RN party members, the Paris prosecutor's office said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday called for security reinforcements around LGBT events, including Paris Pride, citing an increase in discriminatory acts.

Pride events addressed the elections directly, with organisers calling for people to mobilise against the far-right with a focus on progressing transgender rights.

The Interior Ministry said it does not have consolidated figures on violent incidents linked to the elections. But ministry data showed offences against LGBTQ+ people in France are on the rise, with the number of incidents reported in 2023 40% higher than in 2020.

What are LGBTQ+ advocates' biggest concerns?

One bill that has already passed the conservative-led senate calls for a ban on hormone therapy and puberty blockers for trans minors. It could pass easily through a far-right dominated lower house, LGBTQ+ campaigners said.

"We're facing a precipice in terms of trans rights," Morgann Gicquel, president of Espace Trans Sante, an association promoting trans healthcare in the Ile de France region, told Context/the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Gicquel said right-wing parties had "opened up the floodgates" to reverse trans children's rights and added that trans rights had been used for political point scoring in recent years.

A legal opinion from France's Defender of Rights, an independent constitutional body to protect human rights, calls into question the new law, and raises concerns that it would introduce discrimination against trans minors in the realm of healthcare.

Meanwhile, left-wing parties have proposed making it easier to change legal gender so that applicants would have to make a simple declaration at a local town hall, rather than receiving court approval.

(Reporting by Joanna Gill; Editing by Jon Hemming.)


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