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Austria to compensate gay people convicted under discriminatory laws

By Agence France-Presse Published Nov 14, 2023 8:42 am

Austria has set aside millions of euros to compensate thousands of gay people who until two decades ago faced prosecution, its justice minister said Monday, Nov. 13.

Austria decriminalised homosexuality in 1971 but certain discriminatory provisions remained in force until the early 2000s.

A ban on male homosexual prostitution remained in place until 1989 although heterosexual prostitution was legal. The age of consent for sexual contact between men was 18—instead of 14 for heterosexuals—until 2002.

Some 11,000 people are estimated to be eligible for compensation with a total of 33 million euros (almost P2 billion) alloted for payout, Justice Minister Alma Zadic said.

"This financial compensation can never, never make up for the suffering and injustice that happened... but it is of immense importance that we... finally take responsibility for this part of our history," Zadic told reporters, flanked by two LGBTQ+ flags.

Gay people who were investigated under the now-repealed laws will get 500 euros, while convictions will be quashed, she said.

Those who were convicted will get 3,000 euros (almost P180,000) and more if they were jailed or suffered in terms of health, economically, or in their professional lives.

The law, allowing for compensation effective from February next year, is expected to pass parliament this year, a ministry speaker told AFP.

People will have to come forward to claim the compensation.

Zadic—who has previously apologized over the prosecution gay men and women faced—also urged people to stand up against hatred and violence against the LGBTQ+ community, which she said was on the rise.

In 2017, Germany's parliament voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law, which remained in force after the war, and offer compensation.

Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938, leading to the persecution of not only Jews but also gay people and others targeted by the Nazis.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Austria since 2019, and surveys show that Austrian public opinion is firmly on the side of equal treatment for same-sex couples. (AFP)