France’s action for the rights of LGBT+ people


Discrimination, violence and anti-LGBT+ hatred remains a reality in France and around the world. France has been at the forefront of defending the rights of LGBT+ people. In 2008, it launched the first campaign for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality, with a declaration at the United Nations General Assembly signed by 66 countries and the creation of a fund for civil society organizations. As a pioneer in the field, France continues to mobilize its diplomatic network and advocate, at the European Union and international bodies such as the United Nations, for the recognition and protection of the rights of LGBT+ people;

What does LGBT+ mean?

The acronym “LGBT” appeared in the 1990s. The term “homosexual” (“gay”), considered too limiting, was replaced by this acronym which includes both sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual) and gender identity (transgender). It is accompanied by a “+” to include other sexual orientations, identities and gender expressions. It also includes intersex people.

Decriminalization and the protection of the rights of LGBT+ people is a priority of French foreign policy

While 132 members of the United Nations have decriminalized homosexuality, it is still a crime in 67 countries, with 11 [1] of them including the death penalty among applicable sentences.

Illust: LGBT+ rights around, 94.7 kb, 1440x1440
LGBT+ rights around the world

France advocates for the repeal of all legal provisions that criminalize homosexuality and transidentity. It does this in the name of human rights, which all States have committed to through a number of international texts, particularly the right to privacy and family life, freedom from discrimination, and the right to liberty and security of person, which means that nobody should be arbitrarily arrested or subjected to mistreatment.

France also advocates, in addition to decriminalization, for total respect of all rights of LGBT+ people, particularly freedom of expression and association, which far too often are impeded by laws forbidding the discussion of LGBT+ issues in public spaces or preventing NGOs working on such issues from carrying out their activity. It encourages States not only to lift these legal restrictions but also to adopt laws and policies to determinedly fight homophobia and transphobia. To contribute to this, it offers its expertise, in particular to national human rights institutions, rights defenders and ministries in charge of security and justice.

The French network of embassies, the third-largest in the world, works to recall France’s consistent positions on this matter, express its concerns when the situation of LGBT+ persons worsens, and support countries ready to move towards decriminalization or better respecting the rights of LGBT+ people.

Furthermore, France recognizes persecution for sexual orientation and gender identity as a criterion for asylum.

An Ambassador for the rights of LGBT+ people

On 26 October 2022, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs announced that it was appointing an Ambassador for the rights of LGBT+ people. This role, assigned to Jean-Marc Berthon, confirms that combating violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people is one of France’s foreign policy priorities.
“He will reiterate the commitment of France to the universal decriminalization of homosexuality and to defending the rights of LGBT+ people, and will provide his full support to civil society organizations that often work in difficult conditions”, according to the statement.

Twitter account of Jean-Marc Berthon

Coalitions to promote the rights of LGBT+ people

In 2016, the Coalition for Equal Rights, which brings together 42 States worldwide, was formed to coordinate international efforts supporting LGBT+ people. The Coalition is currently co-chaired by Germany and Mexico. France plays an active role.

At the United Nations in New York and Geneva, the countries most committed to this matter regularly cooperate to draw up joint positions and advocate together for greater consideration of the protection of LGBT+ people in multilateral negotiations.

Within the EU, discussions between like-minded States on the rule of law and fundamental rights regularly take place on the topic. In addition, an LGBTIQ sub-group, stemming from the EU High-Level Group on combating hate speech and hate crime, was created in 2021 and now meets regularly.

France advocates for the protection of LGBT+ rights within multilateral and European forums

France is fully mobilized within the United Nations in efforts to combat stigmatization and serious violations of human rights that LGBT+ people everywhere in the world continue to experience.

In 2008, jointly with the Netherlands, France presented the text of the Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity to the United Nations General Assembly. As of 2023, almost 70 States have signed the declaration.

As a member of the United Nations LGBTI Core Group in New York (which has 42 States) and the group of friends of the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Geneva, France regularly endorses the joint statements and high-level events in multilateral bodies dedicated to combating violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

In 2011, France worked on drafting the Human Rights Council Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It also supported the historic panel on sexual orientation and gender identity during the 19th Session of the Human Rights Council in 2012.

France was actively involved in the adoption of a resolution condemning discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity by the Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2014.

In 2016, the HRC also adopted a resolution on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This resolution led to the creation, for the first time in this field, of a mandate for an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Following the Orlando attacks, on 12 June 2016, the Security Council, then chaired by France, adopted a declaration condemning the attack and its homophobic character. It is the first Security Council declaration which mentions victims’ sexual orientation. On 16 June 2016, at the initiative of the Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, a high-level meeting was held at Stonewall Inn, New York, a very symbolic location for the fight for LGBT+ rights. The meeting was attended by France and 15 other countries, as well as the European Union.

France defends progressive positions and language in all specialized international forums. It ensures that the International Labour Organization and World Health Organization programmes are inclusive, including for LGBT+ people;

These initiatives are proof of the gradual progress of this issue within the United Nations and among States, as well as continuous commitment of France and its partners on this issue.

At the EU, France is committed to implementing the very first European LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025, published by the Commission. It advocates for the recognition by all EU Member States of marriage rights for people of the same sex and the lived experiences of rainbow families, for the extending of the list of European criminal offences to include hate speech and hate crimes, including against LGBT+ people, and for the banning of conversion therapies.

In 2023, it took part in negotiations of a general policy guidance text, the Council Conclusions, on the safety of LGBTQI people in the EU. The principles drawn up in these Conclusions stem from the Strategy and aim to implement it. They were presented by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.

France also observes Member States’ compliance with rights of LGBT+ people. In April 2023, it supported the action for failure to fulfil obligations submitted by the European Commission before the Court of Justice of the EU against Hungary following its anti-LGBT+ law adopted in 2021. This was a first, and attests to France’s efforts to remain vigilant as to the regression of the rights of LGBTQI people in the European Union.

Lastly, France supports the European Commission’s external action to support LGBT+ rights. As part of the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, the Commission decided to allocate €15 million to global action in support of non-discrimination and inclusion.

France supports civil society organizations and rights defenders working for the rights of LGBT+ people around the world

France works alongside its international and civil society partners and human rights defenders to promote and defend LGBT+ rights through its official development assistance (ODA).

The priority of French development policy [2] is to promote human rights, including the fight to decriminalize homosexuality and support human rights defenders. [3] Furthermore, France’s cooperation and development policy takes a human rights-based approach which guides the action of development partners by creating projects that are founded on the principles of legality, universality, non-discrimination and inclusion.

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, through its diplomatic network, supports numerous foreign NGO projects that aim to promote and protect the rights of LGBT+ people. To step up this action alongside civil society, the Ministry’s Priority Solidarity Fund and the AFD’s Initiatives-OSC facility, which publishes calls for projects to French and international NGOs, is open to NGOs working on these issues.

Many LGBT+ people also benefit from France’s international actions against HIV and AIDS, which affects them particularly. In addition to the Global Fund programmes, to which France is the second-largest public donor, they can also receive support from L’Initiative, an Expertise France programme which provides assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS, in particular LGBT+ people.

Between 2017 and 2022, France contributed €29 million for LGBT+ groups and will spend another €10 million over the next three years.

Europe, committed to equality for LGBT+ people

On 12 November 2020, the European Union presented its first strategy for LGBTIQ equality in the EU. This strategy includes plans for legislative and non-legislative work at the Council, and the investment of a number of financial resources to ensure LGBTQIA rights are respected. It has four priorities:

  • Fighting discrimination, particularly in the workplace;
  • Ensuring safety of LGBTIQ people;
  • Protecting rights of rainbow families, with the possibility of mutually recognizing same-sex partnerships across Member States;
  • Supporting equal rights for LGBTIQ people around the world.

A progress report on the implementation of the strategy has been published by the European Commission. It attests to genuine progress, while highlighting room for further progress that the European institutions and Member States could achieve by 2025.

Furthermore, to respond to the backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in certain EU countries, on 11 March 2021, members of the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recognizes the entire European territory as an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone”. More generally, the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT rights is very active in promoting and defending LGBTIQ rights in all European legislative discussions.

France hopes that the Member States will renew their commitments by adopting the Council Conclusions on the safety of LGBTIQ people in the EU in June 2023.

[1Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Yemen.

[2Programming Act of 4 August 2021 on inclusive development and combating global inequalities.

[3The French approach to this support is written into the “human rights and development” strategy which prioritizes support to human rights defenders.