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Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

French Court Rules On Infamous Gay Hate Crime Case

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"Violence, cowardliness, and hate of difference all condemned by the court today" Wilfred de Bruijn wrote on Twitter this afternoon as Paris's Criminal Court announced their sentence to the four young men who beat Wilfred and his companion Olivier Couderc on their way home one cold April night last year.

The case soon became infamous when this photograph went viral on social networks, and media around the world published articles about the shocking story.

This afternoon, the court sentenced Taieb (19 years old) and Malik (20) to 30 months imprisonment with a 12 month suspended sentence for Taieb, and 15 months suspended sentence for Malik. Kidé (21) who watched the attack and didn't intervene was given a 6 month suspended sentence, and a fourth individual who was a minor at the time of the attack is to be judged by the juvenile court. They must now compensate Wilfred with €6,000, and his companion Olivier with €1,500.

"This is a balanced and fair sentence that takes into account the personality of the attackers and severity of acts committed", stated their lawyer, Caroline Mecary, after the hearing. "This is a very strong message for those tempted to attack a person because of their sexuality." The laywers on both sides are satisfied with the outcome, as is SOS Homophobie, France's homophobia watchdog.

Living in France, I experienced the generalized homophobia during the gay marriage debates first hand. Being implicated in an activist group I founded with my boyfriend called 'Glimpy', I was on the front-line on a daily basis, witnessing the homophobic acts that took place in my city and being victim to a few (although much less violent than Wilfred's case). However, it got to a point when it all became too much.

The sit-in we organized to support Wilfred last April. We
assembled over 300 people in 7 days.
The National Assembly's vote on same-sex marriage; I remember the following morning very well. Despite putting on a brave face, determined to hold my boyfriend's hand in public, and standing proudly up for my rights through demonstrations orchestrated by our team, I admit it all became too much. Too much, when I logged onto Facebook that morning after waking up and all I saw was stories about gay bars being attacked in cities around France, including a famous bar just a few blocks away from where I lived, stories about people getting beaten up during the night, gay men in critical conditions in hospital, hearing stories about friends and acquaintances of mine who were threatened or attacked in the street. Wilfred's story was in that list of articles on my Facebook news feed. Reading nothing but this, the day after the National Assembly voted the gay marriage bill, was the straw that broke the camel's back. I cried.

I guess I cried because I was afraid. I wondered how useful my little bottle of tear gas would be against a lunatic with a pistol like the one they used to whip the local bartender over the head with. I wondered if it had become too dangerous to stand on a balcony over an anti-equality rally and contradict them. "Last time they threw eggs, when will they throw rocks?" I thought. Very few people know this, but I was so afraid I asked my boyfriend to ring me every evening before he left his workplace for a few days so I could work out what time he should arrive home. I became paranoid. Walking down the street became a war-like situation where one wrong gesture could cost me my life. It seems stupid now, because France is very far from being anything like Russia, but at the time that's how I felt. But part of me was also crying because I was so angry that this was happening. I expected better from the country that's supposed to be the Mother of Human Rights. I couldn't believe it had got this far.

It's that anger in me that gave me the energy and the strength to carry on at the time, the equal marriage law that makes me feel free today, and this verdict that gives me hope for the future.

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