Jean-Marc Berthon, France’s ambassador for LGBTQ2S+ rights, has voiced concerns over what he perceives as Russia promoting a global prejudice against sexual and gender minorities. Berthon asserted his belief that French-speaking nations must unite to counter this escalating division.
According to Berthon, LGBTQ2S+ issues are among the most contentious in international relations. This observation was highlighted during Berthon’s recent visit to Canada, where he expressed his shock at witnessing anti-LGBTQ2S+ protests.
Appointed by French President Emmanuel Macron, Berthon’s mandate encompasses championing LGBTQ2S+ rights via public advocacy and through efforts within France’s diplomatic and civil service. “The mere existence of an ambassador assigned to address the rights of LGBTQ2S+ people ensures institutional attention and effort is invested in these issues,” he stated.
In his role, Berthon guides France’s embassies in supporting local LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups, both politically and financially. His foreign missions afford him the opportunity to monitor improvements and regressions in human rights worldwide.
Berthon’s main objective is to combat the criminalization of homosexuality, a grave affront to humanity. His efforts are primarily targeted towards an estimated 65 countries where same-sex relationships are penalized by fines, corporal punishment, forced labor, or execution.
Berthon was particularly critical of Russia, citing the country’s detrimental influence on LGBTQ2S+ communities worldwide. He affirmed that Russia continues to harm LGBTQ2S+ people, justifying aggressive political actions and attempting to undermine traditional values by associating sexual and gender minorities with pedophilia.
Moreover, Berthon voiced concerns over Russian embassies partnering with U.S.-based evangelical groups to induce legislation criminalizing LGBTQ2S+ people and sponsoring hate rhetoric on social media platforms. This, he asserted, generates a stalemate in diplomatic circles where opposing viewpoints end up using LGBTQ2S+ rights as bargaining chips instead of advancing them.
In Berthon’s view, francophone countries, especially in Africa, often scapegoat LGBTQ2S+ people during election campaigns to deflect from pressing issues. To counter this, Berthon suggests empowering local activists and confronting isolation in the French-speaking world by fostering international alliances.
During his visit to Canada, Berthon stressed the necessity of mutual inspiration and collaboration between Canada, Quebec, and France in advocating for minorities abroad, while reevaluating civil rights within their own jurisdictions. However, he was also quick to note that France continues to grapple with homophobia.
Berthon’s Canadian journey included meetings with the Canadian Pride Caucus of MPs and senators, and a visit to the Montreal-based group Egides, a global alliance of French-speaking LGBTQ2S+ organizations. However, his visit coincided with nationwide protests against “gender ideology,” which he felt portrayed LGBTQ2S+ people negatively.
Berthon’s visit arrived amidst increasing national and international restrictions on LGBTQ2S+ freedoms, particularly in schools. These developments, he highlighted, underscore the divisions within democratic societies. Achieving, and preserving, LGBTQ2S+ rights remains an ongoing battle that requires relentless vigilance and unified efforts.