Controversy has broken out in France after a dozen conservative mayors asked for HIV-prevention posters featuring gay men kissing and embracing to be taken down in their towns, sparking accusations of homophobia.
The posters, which were put up in 130 towns across France, show a range of men of different ages and races, in sexually suggestive embraces, with the following slogan underneath: “with a lover, a friend, with a stranger: the situations vary, the protection modes too.”
The posters are part of a wider campaign launched by President Francois Hollande’s socialist government to raise awareness about the dangers of unprotected sex and promote condom use.
But the posters sparked complaints in dozens of towns, where socially conservative mayors asked that JC Decaux — the advertising company responsible for putting up the billboards up— take them down.
Critics of the campaign justified themselves by saying the posters were “against good values and morality” and that they were simply protecting the innocence of children by having them removed.
Bruno Beschizza, the mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois near Paris, actually had the banners covered with a yellow sign saying “Protect Our Children.” He rejected any accusations of homophobia, however, saying he would have reacted the same way had the ad depicted a woman and a man kissing.
Although France is a secular country where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2013, LGBT rights remain a hot button issue, particularly amongst the socially conservative Catholic establishment.
Meanwhile, France’s Socialist health minister Marisol Touraine called the local bans “unacceptable” and encouraged Twitter users to share images of the posters as a rebuke to censorship.
She said she would be taking the mayors to court.