Germany to overturn convictions for homosexuality, pay compensation

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GERMANY – Gay men prosecuted in Germany under a longstanding anti-homosexuality law are expected to have their convictions thrown out and to receive compensation.

Paragraph 175, which criminalized male homosexuality, was adopted in 1871, and strengthened considerably by the Nazis. It remained on the books until 1994.

The Bundestag, Germany’s lower legislative body, voted Thursday to quash all Paragraph 175 convictions from the post-World War II era, German media outlets reported.

Of the 64,000 men convicted since the 1945, an estimated 5,000 are still alive, justice ministry figures show, German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.

The men are expected to receive 3,000 euros (about $3,350) in compensation for their convictions, plus 1,500 euros (about $1,675) for every year they spent in prison, the broadcaster reported.

Germany’s upper house has announced it will approve the bill, Deutsche Welle said.

‘Justice is never too late’

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, German Justice Minister Heiko Mass tweeted “the rehabilitation of the victims of Paragraph 175 shows … justice is never too late.”

The bill, however, has stoked some controversy.

The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany said the move returned some dignity to those who had been persecuted under Paragraph 175 but that the compensation was not enough.

The legislation also discriminates against gay men by setting the age of consent for them at 16 years old, compared with 14 years old for heterosexuals, the group said. That means men who were prosecuted for sex with 14- or 15-year-olds wouldn’t have their convictions quashed.

“It would have been right and in accordance with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights to apply the identical age for heterosexual couples in hindsight for homosexual relations,” Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency said, calling the caveat “extremely regrettable.”

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