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1,000s of gay men in Germany still live with criminal records

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1,000s of gay men in Germany still live with criminal records
Photo: DPA
15:29 CEST+02:00
Homosexuality hasn't been a crime for decades. But thousands of men still have criminal records based on a law that was wiped from the books in 1969.

The head of the Federal Anti-discrimination Office, Christine Lüders, called on the government on Wednesday to repeal convictions made against gay men under paragraph 175 of the criminal code, a law which was lifted in 1969.

“The law makers need to act,” Lüders told the Funke Media Group, explaining that over 50,000 men were prosecuted in the decades after the Second World War based on their sexuality.

“The essence of their human dignity” was injured by the rulings, Lüders said, but still the men have to live with their criminal records.

Lüders' words are backed up by a legal study published by her office which concluded that the government has a legally obliged to repeal the convictions.

The Gay and Lesbian Association (LSVD) welcomed the study's conclusions, saying that it shows the government “not only can but must clear the names of the men who were convicted under paragraph 175.”

Calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet “to act against this injustice” before next year's general election, the LSVD demanded that individual compensation be paid to victims as a collective settlement.

Die Zeit reports that compensation could be made in the form of investment in educational projects which aim to explain and foster tolerance for sexual diversity, with individual claims for compensation unlikely to be successful.

Paragraph 175 was part of the German legal code from 1872 onwards. Under Nazi rule the sentence was raised considerably, with men who were convicted sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

But after the war the government in the communist east and democratic west both took decades to wipe the law from their books.

In East Germany the law was only annulled in 1968, after thousands of convictions.

In West Germany police arrested gay men en masse. More than 50,000 were convicted,  and Die Zeit reports that many of those convicted killed themselves, while others went to prison or lost their jobs. The law was annulled in 1969.

In 2002 the government cleared all convictions dating back to the Nazi era. But men found guilty after that time have yet to see their names cleared.

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