PARIS - Homophobic attacks and insults in France rose by 36 percent last year, according to figures released Saturday by the Interior Ministry, prompting the government to talk of an "anchoring" of homophobia in the country.
The leap came after 2018 was described as a "black" year by associations, with an unequaled level of physical violence against LGBT people.
The new figures, which show a steady increase in offenses, came on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and 30 years after the withdrawal of homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, the police "identified 1,870 victims of homophobic or transphobic offenses compared to 1,380 in 2018," representing a "36 percent increase in the number of victims of anti-LGBT acts," the ministry said in a statement.
"These figures testify to the deep anchoring of homophobia and transphobia in society," said the ministry, adding that they form part of a broader increase in "hate acts and identity extremism.”
Insults constituted 33 percent of the offenses, while violence (physical and sexual) made up 28 percent of the complaints.
The victims were mainly men — 75 percent — with 62 percent perpetrated against those under 35 years of age.
LGBT associations say the figures do not tell the whole story as many victims do not report crimes to the police. The SOS Homophobia association is due to publish its own figures on Monday.
The report shows that the incidents of homophobia are spread across the country, with 36 percent of the complaints coming in the big cities.
"This shows us that there is homophobia throughout the territory, including in rural areas," Frederic Potier, the interministerial delegate for the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hatred (Dilcrah), told AFP.
The world of sport came under the microscope after several top football matches were interrupted because of homophobic chants from the stands or the display of abusive banners.
The Interior Ministry, which called Saturday for "increased vigilance by the public authorities" and more effort from society as a whole, recorded around 30 complaints concerning insults or threats made on the internet.
French lawmakers on Wednesday approved a controversial bill to ban hate speech on social media, a measure dismissed as censorship by detractors.
The law obliges platforms and search engines to remove offensive content — incitement to hate or violence and racist or religious bigotry — within 24 hours or risk a fine of up to 1.25 million euros ($1.35 million).