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'Dark year' for France as LGBT+ assaults hit record in 2018

[LONDON] Physical attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people in France hit a record in 2018 in a "dark year" for the community, the support group SOS Homophobie said on Tuesday.

Its hotline, which allows victims to anonymously report assaults, recorded an unprecedented 66 per cent hike last year, with 321 cases reported, up from 139 in 2017.

Overall complaints, including harassment and discrimination, rose for the third consecutive year to 1,905 in 2018, up 15 per cent on 2017, it said, most taking place during daily activities - in local public spaces, at work, in school or while shopping.

"These figures are alarming and a wakeup call. They reflect the fact that LGBT people who have been victims of violence and discrimination are speaking up and breaking their silence," SOS Homophobie said in a statement.

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"They demonstrate the entrenchment and the persistence of LGBT phobias within French society."

A spate of homophobic attacks in Paris during the latter part of 2018, which were widely publicised by victims on social media, prompted the LGBT+ community to demand urgent government action.

Equality minister Marlene Schiappa responded in November with a plan against LGBT+ violence. But SOS Homophobie said only two out of 10 actions were taken - a letter from the justice ministry to state officials and a school awareness campaign.

The internet and social media were the single largest source of anti-LGBT+ behaviour, leading to 23 per cent of complaints, SOS Homophobie's report found.

On a more positive note, the rise of the #MeToo movement and its French equivalent, #BalanceTonPorc - Expose Your Pig - at the end of 2017 have persuaded women to report more cases of sexual harassment and violence, it said.

As a result, complaints of homophobic behaviour against lesbians jumped 42 per cent to 365 last year - equal to one case a day.

The French interior ministry largely backed SOS Homophobie's findings, with figures released on Tuesday showing law enforcement officials recorded 1,378 victims of homophobic or transphobic acts last year, up 34 per cent on 2017.

The government also pledged to present a new plan to combat LGBT+ discrimination in the coming weeks.