A gay couple
A gay couple - Reuters

The French government is planning to introduce lessons on gay issues in primary school in a new measure to improve awareness and combat homophobia.

The aim is to educate children about homosexual relationships and same-sex parenting.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the minister for women's rights, said the proposals would help fight homophobia in France.

She said the education ministry had been working to make changes in teaching in order to incorporate issues affecting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

The hope is that by making young children aware of the issues, playground bullying and teen suicide will decline, said Vallaud-Belkacem.

"In Europe we will work towards having a common stance, while in France we will strengthen our protection for asylum seekers whose lives are in danger because of their sexual orientation," she said.

The move followed several rounds of consultation with LGBT groups in France. The proposal has been welcomed by most of the groups, which are vociferous opponents of LGBT discrimination.

"It is the first time the French government has shown itself willing to get so involved in fighting homophobia. It is very encouraging. Big changes can be achieved very quickly that will make a big difference to our society and for the welfare of victims of homophobic crimes and bullying," Stephane Cordin, spokesman for the French LGBT Federation, told France 24.

The government measures also include special training for police officers to enable them to deal with homosexual-related crimes more effectively.

The teachers' union has welcomed the initiative, saying children need to be taught to respect others irrespective of their backgrounds. According to activists' statistics, around 300,000 children come from homes with same-sex parents. Campaigners argue that these children should also be treated no differently than other children.

France is also working to curb the views of those religious groups that campaign against same-sex relationships.

In 2013, the country will vote on a bill that could legalise same-sex marriage.