Gay victims of Franco era to win compensation

In the dying days of General Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Antoni Ruiz found out for himself what thousands of others had already suffered for being gay.

Antoni, then just 17, from Valencia, eastern Spain, told his mother he was homosexual and his family sought advice from a nun. "She went straight to the police and I was arrested and sent for trial," said Mr Ruiz.

"I spent three months in prison. I was raped there and in the police cells and psychologically tortured by both the guards and the prison doctor."

Now, 31 years later, Mr Ruiz and a dwindling band of others who suffered General Franco's ruthless repression of homosexuals, may finally be offered compensation by the state.

The Spanish government may offer money to those who were sent to mental hospitals, tortured, imprisoned or who suffered a lifetime of persecution. The Spanish Justice Minister, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, is considering granting victims a pension of €800 (£540) a month, plus a one-off €12,000 payment for what they suffered under the regime. It could be introduced in two months.

Many homosexuals were prevented from working under the Franco dictatorship because of their "criminal" records, meaning they never contributed enough money to receive more than the minimum pension.

Mr Ruiz, president of the Association of Ex-Social Prisoners, said the move would be a victory. "This is not just about economic compensation but remembering homosexuals who suffered under unjust and dictatorial laws," he added. A few hundred survivors will see the payments - many of the thousands victimised have since died.

During Franco's homophobic dictatorship, gays were jailed or locked up in sinister mental institutions known as "correction camps". With echoes of the Nazi atrocities against gays, they were given electric shocks in the belief that this would rid them of their homosexual urges. Inmates were forced to watch pornographic films featuring women in an effort to show them a sex life that was deemed "natural" by the conservative authorities.

As part of their nationalist, Catholic ideals, the Franco regime and its Falangist supporters considered homosexuals a threat to the "macho" Spanish male.

General Queipo del Llano, who broadcast to the nation, once said: "Any effeminate or introvert who insults the movement will be killed like a dog."

The most famous gay man killed by the regime was the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who wrote Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba. Considered a subversive, he was executed by a Nationalist firing squad in Granada in 1936.

Homosexuality was designated as an offence under the "law against delinquency and criminals" introduced in 1954. But towards the end of Franco's regime, it was increasingly viewed as an illness rather than a crime. In 1968, the psychologist Lopez Ibor said: "Homosexuals should be seen more as sick people than as criminals. But the law should still prevent them proselytising in schools, sports clubs and army barracks." Jail terms of up to three years were imposed under laws covering "public scandal" or "social danger".

Homosexuals, almost all of them men, were packed off to mental hospitals, where some were given electric-shock therapy.

Lower middle class or working-class gays without powerful friends in the regime to protect them were the main victims. For others, the situation was different. The historian Pablo Fuentes said: "It is not uncommon to hear homosexuals from the upper classes and the aristocracy speak about the Franco period as a great time."

Many gay people who suffered at the hands of the regime are reluctant to raise the issue because of the horrors it brings back or because they still fear society's attitudes.

Even after Franco died, persecution of gays continued. They could be jailed until 1979. And although thousands of political and other prisoners were pardoned in 1976, gay people were made to serve their sentences. In 2001, Spain finally pledged to wipe clean the criminal records of gays convicted under Franco.

The present Socialist government legalised same-sex weddings and gay adoption in 2005, against opposition from the conservative opposition and the Roman Catholic Church.

Pedro Zerolo, president of Spain's Federation of Gays and Lesbians, said: "What we want is a declaration of moral rehabilitation for those people who had part of their lives stolen by the state."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor