French action for LGBT+ rights


Discrimination, violence and anti-LGBT+ hatred remain a reality in France and around the world. France has been at the forefront of defending LGBT+ rights. 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 LGBT+ rights.

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, including intersex people.

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

While 139 members of the United Nations have decriminalized homosexuality, it is still a crime in 62 countries, with 10 [1] of them including the death penalty among applicable sentences.

Illust: LGBT+ rights around, 94.9 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 LGBT+ rights, 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+ people worsens, and support countries ready to move towards decriminalization or better respecting LGBT+ rights.

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

International initiatives
  • Continue to systematically make representations to countries which undermine LGBT+ rights
  • Launch a campaign at the United Nations for the universal decriminalization of homosexuality
  • Mobilize new resources for NGOs which defend LGBT+ people around the world, such as the Quai d’Orsay fund, the AFD call for projects and L’Initiative by Expertise France
  • Organize an inclusive Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly with the opening of a Maison des Fiertés (Pride House)
  • Make the EU the world’s most protective space for LGPT+ people: e.g. combat violence and discrimination, provide legal protection for same-sex couples, ban conversion therapies, recognize same-sex parentage across countries
  • Issue visas tailored to the needs of human rights defenders (including LGBT+ defenders)
  • Increase France’s participation in the Equal Rights Coalition, as well as in pro-LGBT+ coalitions at the United Nations and the Council of Europe.
  • Develop the network of LGBT+ contact points in all French embassies
  • Ensure that French embassies are safe places for LGBT+ people
  • Organize an annual meeting with pro-LGBT+ NGOs in each French embassy
  • Use cultural diplomacy and formal communication from embassies to increase the profile of LGBT+ issues

Internal action within the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

  • Offer MEAE officials training/awareness-raising on LGBT+ issues
  • Officially take part in the Pride March 2024, within the diplomatic procession.
  • Provide Foreign Ministry officials with a summary document on the existing laws regarding LGBT+ people in all countries, in order to guide them in their professional mobility and inform them of the rights of their spouses
  • Publish a booklet: “J’attends un enfant” (My future child), covering rights on the issue of parenthood, focusing on parental leave, assisted conception and adoption.

An Ambassador for LGBT+ rights

On 26 October 2022, an Ambassador for LGBT+ rights was appointed. This role, assigned to Jean-Marc Berthon, confirms that combating violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people is one of France’s foreign policy priorities. The ambassador is responsible for speaking out on behalf of France in terms of defending LGBT+ rights, particularly in the fight for universal decriminalization. He regularly meets civil society actors dealing with these issues, who are often working under difficult conditions.

Jean-Marc Berthon’s X account

Coalitions to promote LGBT+ rights

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 contributes to high-level events in multilateral bodies dedicated to combating violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.

In 2011, France worked on drafting the Human Rights Council (HRC) 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 by the HRC of a resolution condemning discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity 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 nature. 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.

In 2024, France supported the first United Nations resolution on the protection of intersex people.

These initiatives are proof of the gradual progress of this issue within the United Nations and among States, as well as the continuous commitment of France and its partners to 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 LGBT+ rights. 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 vigilance regarding the regression of LGBTQI rights 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 defenders of LGBT+ rights 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.

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 LGBT+ rights. To step up this action alongside civil society, a specific Priority Solidarity Fund for LGBT+ civil society organizations (CSOs) was created in 2023. With a budget of €2 million, it operates within the framework of the Team France Fund. The AFD’s CSO Initiatives Facility,which publishes calls for projects aimed at French and international NGOs, is also open to NGOs working on these issues.

Many LGBT+ people also benefit from France’s international actions against HIV and AIDS, which affect 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 to LGBT+ groups and will spend another €10 million over the next three years.

Europe, committed to LGBT+ equality

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 the safety of LGBTIQ people;
  • protecting rights of rainbow families, with possible measures to support the mutual recognition of same-gender partnership between Member States;
  • support LGBTIQ equality around the world.

Progress report on the implementation of the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy published by the European Commission. The report indicates true progress, while highlighting areas where the European institutions and Member States can still improve by 2025.

Furthermore, in response to the backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, on 11 March 2021 MEPs adopted a resolution declaring the EU an ‘‘LGBTIQ Freedom Zone’’. More generally, the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup is highly active in promoting and protecting LGBTIQ rights in all European legislative discussions.

France hopes that Member States can renew their commitments by adopting the EU Council conclusions on the safety of LGBTI people drawn up in June 2023.

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

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

[3The French concept of this approach is formally set out in the “human rights and development” strategy, which prioritizes support for human rights defenders.