France’s Senate is this week to debate a draft law that would allow people convicted under anti-gay laws before 1982 to receive financial compensation.Michel Chomarat, now 74, was arrested in 1977 during a police raid on a gay bar called “Le Manhattan”.In Britain, where male anal sex became punishable by death under the Buggery Act of 1533, sexual relations between men were decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, and later in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But this was only if the sexual relations occurred in private and the people involved were over 21.
Under a recent “disregard and pardons scheme”, people in Britain can get a historic conviction for gay sex offences removed from police and court records.
This includes convictions for “buggery”, “gross indecency” and “procuring others to commit homosexual acts” — all since abolished — but not sexual activity in a public toilet, which is still an offence.
Regis Schlagdenhauffen, a social science professor at the EHESS school in Paris, said his research suggested that at least 10,000 people had been condemned for homosexuality in France between 1942 and 1982, mostly men from working-class backgrounds.
A third of them was married and a quarter had children, he said.
“Those condemnations brought disgrace and were a terrible experience to live through,” said Schlagdenhauffen.
This was the reason why many victims of state repression might not come forward, he said, preferring not to revisit the traumatic experience.