Germany Wipes Slate Clean for 50,000 Men Convicted Under Anti-Gay Law

No comments
 In what the justice minister, Heiko Maas, called a “belated act of justice,” the German Parliament has voted unanimously to void the convictions of roughly 50,000 men prosecuted for homosexual acts since World War II.
The measure, approved on Thursday, also awards compensation to about 5,000 of the men who are still living. Each will receive 3,000 euros ($3,350), and an additional €1,500 for each year spent in prison for the convictions.
Sex among men was illegal in Germany from its founding in 1871 until the last years of the 20th century, under Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code. The provision was modified a number of times over the years, and was sharpened in the Nazi era, when it was much more strictly enforced. Unlike many other Nazi practices, the strict ban was retained by the West German authorities for decades.
“This has been a very, very long fight for the rehabilitation of gay men who were convicted in this democratic German state — not in the National Socialist state, but in the democratic German state,” said Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany. 
Volker Beck, a member of Parliament and longtime advocate of gay rights, described the vote as a “historical, big step” toward acknowledging and correcting past mistakes.
Paragraph 175 barred “sexual acts contrary to nature,” both those between men and those between humans and animals. It never outlawed sex between women.
Richard Evans, a Cambridge University professor and expert on German history, said that the Nazi government, and especially Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the S.S., used Paragraph 175 extensively to arrest and imprison gay men. In the early postwar years, Professor Evans said, West Germany prosecuted about 100,000 men for homosexual behavior and convicted about half of them.
A 1969 amendment decriminalized most sexual acts between consenting adults, but there were still several thousand convictions between then and the ultimate repeal of Paragraph 175 in 1994.
“This is one of the last, and very overdue, acts of recognition of the injustices of the Nazi era, doubly welcome because the persecution continued long after Nazism had vanished from the scene,” Professor Evans said of the vote.
Paul Betts, a German historian at Oxford University, described the move as a “milestone in Germany’s long-running effort to come to terms with the Nazi past.” 
Gay rights activists welcomed the news but said the compensation amounts were too small. They also opposed a last-minute change pushed by the nation’s main conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, limiting eligibility for compensation to men who had engaged in relations with someone over 16, rather than 14, the legal age of consent in Germany.
The Lesbian and Gay Federation will file an appeal in Germany’s constitutional court, arguing that the age threshold amounts to unequal treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals and that the compensation amounts are insufficient, Mr. Hochrein said.
“This is a historic step, but we do think it’s a historic first step,” said Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, which advocates for gay and transgender rights. “The convictions had such a huge impact on these men’s lives, on their social inclusion, proper employment, that we hope the government will go further in compensation.”
Marcel de Groot, director of Berlin’s gay counseling center, said that many of the convicted men have died or have chosen to conceal that chapter of their lives. But others, he said, are “very glad to be able to live the last days of their lives” with their convictions wiped out.
Ann Kathrin Sost of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency said the men’s main concern has been clearing their names. “We talked to many people who had been convicted in those times, and almost all of them said, ‘We don’t care about the money, we care about our dignity, and we want the convictions overturned,’” she said.
In a 2013 interview, Klaus Born, who was imprisoned in the 1960s after the police found him having sex with another man, described the conviction as a moral affront and a legal stigma.
“It’s not about the money — no one cares about that,” Mr. Born said. “These convictions hurt people.”

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks For Sharing Your Views