Norway | Government apologises to gay people for past abuses


Jonas Gahr Støre, the Prime Minister of Norway (Photo: NTB Kommunikasjon/Office of the Prime Minister)

The Prime Minister of Norway has formally apologised to the country’s LGBTIQ community for the government’s past persecution of gay men.

The apology was issued on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the Storting (Norwegian parliament) repealing section 213 of the Penal Code, which had criminalised sexual relations between men.

Between 1902 and 1950, 119 Norwegian men were convicted of having sexual relations with other men under section 213.

“These men endured court cases, convictions and imprisonment. They were publicly stigmatised and condemned. Through legislation, but also a range of other discriminatory practices, we, as a nation and a society, made it clear that we did not accept gay love. The government now wishes to apologise for that,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The government admitted in a statement that section 213 not only criminalised gay men but also had a major influence on the way society at large viewed homosexuality.

“It had great symbolic value, and gay people were subjected to broad condemnation, widespread discrimination, slander and blackmail as a result,” it stated.

The Norwegian government asserted that criminalising and prosecuting people for who they love, subjecting healthy people to various interventions, and depriving people of career and work opportunities “are serious violations of the values that underpin our society today”.

Minister of Culture and Equality Anette Trettebergstuen commented: “This apology is important, both because it acknowledges the injustice of the past, and because it better equips us to deal with the struggles that still remain. Our goal is to improve the living conditions and mental health of gay people.”

Trettebergstuen promised that the government will review and strengthen the services offered to transgender citizens and will also ban conversion therapy, “which is clearly harmful to those who are subjected to it.”

The government further committed itself to present a new action plan to address the rights and needs of LGBTIQ people before the end of the year.

Norway is among the most progressive European countries with regard to LGBTIQ rights. It was the first nation in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law explicitly including sexual orientation in 1981. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009 and in 2016, Norway became the fourth country in Europe to allow the change of legal gender solely based on self-determination.

A handful of other governments have formally apologised for the historical mistreatment and persecution of LGBTIQ people including Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, and the UK Government. In 2021, Germany implemented a compensation scheme for the thousands of victims of the law criminalising homosexual acts that was in force up to 1969.

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