“A great joy, a great victory. » What Didier Varrod, presenter on Frequence gaie, thus describes, on August 4, 1982, is the fulfillment of a campaign promise by François Mitterrand, elected a year earlier: “homosexuality must cease to be a crime”. “This law of 1982 not only sanctuarized the rule of law, but also opened up the possibility of emancipation for homosexual people, who suffered and still suffer discrimination”recognizes François Emery, advocacy officer at Act Up.
Even if the crime of sodomy had disappeared from the first Penal Code of 1791, the judges relied on other charges, such as “public contempt of decency”, defined by article 330 of the Code of 1810. In total, between 1810 and 1994, the date of the last Penal Code, 100,000 homosexuals were convicted of this offense – with penalties ranging from 3 months to 2 years in prison and a fine of 500 to 15,000 francs. – according to Regis Schlagdenhauffen, holder of the Chair of socio-history of sexual categories at EHESS.
The end of repressive legislation
More specifically, the law of August 4, 1982 put an end to discrimination in terms of sexual majority between heterosexual and homosexual people, introduced by the Vichy regime in 1942. According to this old legislation, “anyone who had committed an immodest or unnatural act with a 21-year-old minor of his sex” was liable to a prison term of up to three years. Regarding heterosexuals, on the other hand, consent was declared admissible from the age of 13, then 15 from 1945.
“The law of August 4, 1982 therefore put an end to this repressive legislation, but homosexuality was already no longer a crime, so it is not entirely accurate to speak of decriminalization at that time, exposes Jimmy Charruau, doctor in public law and teacher-researcher at the University of Angers. If the expression was all the same attached to this law, it is above all for reasons of political communication”.
A series of measures in favor of equality
Still, this law marks the beginning of a series of measures in favor of the rights of homosexuals. From 1985, any discrimination based on mores – a euphemism used to refer to homosexuality – is liable to criminal sanctions. A year later, the legislator provides for the same thing in labor law, but it will be necessary to wait for a law of November 16, 2001 to introduce the notion of“sexual orientation”alongside that of manners. “We have gradually moved from criminalizing homosexuality to criminalizing homophobia”analyzes Jimmy Charruau.
An evolution also observed within the company. According to the 2019 Eurobarometer, 73% of French people believe that discrimination against homosexual or bisexual people is widespread, while 87% say they are “completely comfortable” with the idea of working with them. In its latest report for 2022, SOS Homophobia nuances, however: “This year has been marked by an alarming upsurge in cases of physical attacks in schools, businesses, the police and the judiciary”. In total, according to the association, complaints of anti-LGBT crimes and offenses even increased by 28% compared to the year 2020.