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LGBT rights in Lebanon

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Gender identityYes, sex reassignment surgery is allowed
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions
AdoptionNo[note 1]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons living in Lebanon may face difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT residents, however, they are considerably more free than in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world. Various courts have ruled that Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which prohibits having sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature", should not be used to arrest LGBT people.[2][3][4][5] Nonetheless, the law is still being used to harass and persecute LGBT people, through occasional police arrests.[6]

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed that "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[7]

LGBT groups have organised events since 2006 to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. In 2017, LGBT activists organised Lebanon's first pride parade, named Beirut Pride, but were forced to cancel due to terrorist threats from Islamic radicals. The 2018 event was banned after the main organiser was arrested by police officials. The move was condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said: "The crackdown violates freedom of assembly and association and is a step backward in a country that has made progress toward respecting the rights of LGBT people."[8]

Legality of same-sex sexual acts

Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations that are "contradicting the laws of nature", which is punishable by up to a year in prison. As a practical matter, enforcement of the law had been varied and often occurred through occasional police arrests. In 2002, the police broke into a woman's house after her mother claimed that her daughter had stolen some money and jewelry. Upon entering the house, the police found the woman having sexual relations with another woman and charged them both with the crime of sodomy.[9]

In 2007, Judge Mounir Suleiman called a halt to a criminal investigation of two men arrested under Article 534. He disputed that homosexuality was "contrary to the rules of nature" and noted that what was seen as "unnatural" reflected the social mores of the time.[10]

On 11 December 2009, the Lebanon-based LGBT organization Helem launched a report that would target the legal situation of homosexuals in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2011, a Lebanese judge in Batroun ruled against the use of Article 534 to prosecute homosexuals.[11]

In 2012, then Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi weighed in on the use of anal examinations on men accused of same-sex conduct, issuing a statement calling for an end to this practice.[10]

In April 2013, the Mayor of Dekwaneh, a suburb north of Beirut, ordered security forces to raid and shut down a gay-friendly nightclub. Several club-goers were arrested and forced to undress in the municipal headquarters, where they were then photographed naked. This operation was condemned by numerous gay rights activists.[12] Lebanon's Interior Minister of the Interim Government, Marwan Charbel, supported the Mayor of Dekwaneh saying, "Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality, and according to Lebanese law it is a criminal offense."[13]

On 11 July 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) released a statement saying that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated, they said: "Homosexuality in itself does not cause any defect in judgment, stability, reliability or social and professional abilities", "The assumption that homosexuality is a result of disturbances in the family dynamic or unbalanced psychological development is based on wrong information". Also, the LPS stated that conversion therapy, seeking to "convert" gays and bisexuals into straights has no scientific background and asked health professionals to "rely only on science" when giving opinion and treatment in this matter. This made Lebanon the first Arab country to declassify homosexuality as a "disease".[14]

On 28 January 2014, a court in the municipality of Jdeideh ruled out a case against a transgender woman accused of having an "unnatural" sexual relationship with a man.[10][15][16]

In January 2017, a Lebanese judge challenged the legal basis of the arrest of men for same-sex conduct. In his ruling, Judge Maalouf referred to a penal code provision protecting freedom of expression, Article 183, which states that "an act undertaken in exercise of a right without abuse shall not be regarded as an offense." "If no harm is done, there is no crime", the judge wrote in his decision.[10][17]

Despite these rulings, Article 534 of the Penal Code still stands. Georges Azzi, executive director of the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, told the Washington Blade in 2017: "Homosexuality is technically illegal in Lebanon, however the new generation of judges are less likely to apply the law and the police forces will not reinforce it." In August 2014, the Internal Security Forces Morals Protection Bureau conducted a raid on a Turkish bathhouse in Beirut, resulting in the arrest of 27 Syrians. According to a report co-produced with Helem, the stated reason for the raid was the suspected "presence of homosexual individuals".[6] In May 2016, LGBT activists staged a sit-in, demanding Article 534 be repealed.[18]

In March 2018, the Kataeb Party, a minor Christian party, expressed support for the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the repeal of Article 534. Local LGBT activists welcomed the support, stating that this was the first time a political party in Parliament had endorsed their cause.[19]

In July 2018, the Penal Appeal Court of Mount Lebanon upheld a lower court ruling which acquitted nine people prosecuted over being gay. The lower court held that homosexuality was "a practice of their fundamental rights". The Appeal Court agreed and found that consensual sex between same-sex partners cannot be considered "unnatural" so long as it does not violate morality and ethics, such as "when it is seen or heard by others, or performed in a public place, or involving a minor who must be protected." Activists welcomed the ruling and called on the Government to repeal Article 534.[20][21] This ruling was the fifth of its kind in Lebanon, and the first from such a high-level court.

Gender identity and expression

In January 2016, the Court of Appeals of Beirut confirmed the right of a transgender man to change his official papers, granting him access to necessary treatment and privacy.[22][23][24] Transgender people are required to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to change their legal gender.[25]

Blood donation

Lebanese gay and bisexual men are banned from donating blood.[26]

LGBT rights movement in Lebanon

Members of the LGBT Lebanese community began to publicly campaign for LGBT rights in 2002, with the creation of a political association called Hurriyyat Khassa ("Private Liberties" in English). The group focused its efforts on reforming Article 534 of the Criminal Code so that private sex acts between consenting adults would no longer be a crime. Another LGBT rights organization in Lebanon is called Helem (Arabic: حلم‎, meaning "Dream" in Arabic). These organizations have staged public demonstrations, lectures and fundraisers for HIV/AIDS education.

In 2006, Helem celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Monroe Hotel Downtown in Beirut.[27][28]

In August 2007, a lesbian NGO named Meem was founded to support lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning women in Lebanon. The group offers community support, psychological counselling, an activity center, legal support, social events, and the opportunity to work on social change.[29] Meem also hosts a Womyn House that serves as an activity and resource center in Beirut.

The inaugural Beirut Pride was planned for May 21, 2017,[30] but LGBT activists were forced to hold a private event due to fear of violence from police and radical Islamists.[31] In 2018, the organizer of Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien, was arrested and forced to cancel the event.[32] Police officials banned the event, citing "incitement to immorality" and "breach of public morality." Despite the crackdown, other LGBT rights groups, including Helem and the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, organised several events.[8] The events involved a poetry reading, a karaoke night, a discussion on sexual health and HIV, and a literacy workshop.[8]

LGBT rights in Lebanese politics

For a while, only the Kataeb Party endorsed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. None of the major or minor political parties or factions publicly endorsed any of the goals of the gay rights organizations. In 2018, Kollouna Watani, which ran 66 candidates in the election endorsed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Dozens of other candidates also called for decriminalization.[33][34]

Freedom of speech and expression

While there were initial reports of government censorship of LGBT themes, there has been a degree of liberalization in recent years.

On 29 May 2006, ran a piece in which Beirut Municipality Council member Saad-Eddine Wazzan publicly called on Prime Minister Fouad Sanyoura and Minister of Interior Ahmad Fatfat to shut down Helem.[35] On 16 June 2006, sermons in the mosques of Beirut condemned homosexuality and pointed to the fact that Beirut has a licensed LGBT organization called Helem. The sermons also called on the Government to provide explanations. The following day, Ahmed Fatfat denied charges by Islamist clerics that the Government had approved a gay rights group.[36]

LGBT publications

Lebanon is the first Arab country with its own gay periodical, entitled Barra ("Out" in Arabic). A trial issue was published in March 2005 with two full issues that followed in summer 2005 and spring 2006.[37]

A Lebanese LGBT group, Helem, also has its own website including a regular online newsletter publication.

In 2009, "Bareed Mista3jil" was published by the Lebanese lesbian Feminist Collective (FC) organization in Beirut. The organization is also called Nasawiya and is a group of activists who are involved in gender justice work. Available in both English and Arabic versions, the book is a collection of 41 true and personal stories from lesbians, bisexuals, queer and questioning women and transgender persons from all over Lebanon.[38] The book was launched in Masrah Al Madina, Beirut by the Feminist Collective and IndyAct.

Media campaigns

In May 2015, Proud Lebanon, a Lebanese non-profit organization, marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) by launching a media campaign. The campaign consisted of an awareness ad featuring several prominent Lebanese artists and celebrities calling on the Lebanese Government to provide equal rights to all citizens and residents regardless of sexual orientation, nationality, etc. The ad makes particular emphasis on the rights of the LGBT community to live in a society free of homophobia, since LGBT individuals may still face wide prejudice, coming mainly from conservatives or clerics.

Lebanese LGBT movement in the diaspora

Lebanese communities in the Diaspora (Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia) have also established visibility and presence through Helem LGBT affiliates in various cities with big Lebanese presence including Montreal (where Helem has obtained legal registration)[39] and Paris.[40]

Public opinion

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed that "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[7] Younger people were more likely to support acceptance with 27% in favor than those between 30 and 49 (17%) and those over 50 (10%).[41]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Lebanon was ranked 99th with a GHI score of 33.[42]

Notable LGBT Lebanese

High-profile Lebanese singer Mika came out as gay in 2012.

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity No/Yes[note 2]
Equal age of consent No/Yes[note 2]
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No[note 1]
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2016)[22]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes (Since 2013)[14]
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No


  1. ^ a b Adoption is very difficult for much of the population of Lebanon, not only same-sex couples.
  2. ^ a b Some courts have ruled that LGBT people shouldn't be arrested under Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which prohibits sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature", but this law is still used to persecute LGBT people and hasn't been completely struck down yet.

See also


  1. ^ "STATE-SPONSORED HOMOPHOBIA A WORLD SURVEY OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION LAWS: CRIMINALISATION, PROTECTION AND RECOGNITION" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  2. ^ Laws of nature, Beirut: Economist, 14 May 2014, retrieved 4 June 2014
  3. ^ Does a new ruling offer fresh hope for LGBT rights in Lebanon? BBC News
  5. ^ Is Lebanon on the path to decriminalizing homosexuality?
  6. ^ a b The fight goes on for Lebanon's LGBT community
  7. ^ a b The Pew Global Project Attitudes (PDF), Washington, D.C.: PewResearchCenter, 4 October 2007, retrieved 3 September 2011
  8. ^ a b c Lebanon: Police Shutter Pride Events, Human Rights Watch, 18 May 2018
  9. ^ "Sodomy reporting on Lebanese media coverage on arrest of two lesbians". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Lebanon court: Gay sex is natural; anti-gay law weakens Erasing 76 Crimes
  11. ^ "Lebanese Judge Rules Against the Use of Article 534 To Prosecute Homosexuals". Bekhsoos. 18 January 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Lebanese mayor cracks down on homosexuality in his town". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Lebanon: Homosexuals no longer 'perverts,' but still target", Ynetnews, reported by Roi Kais, 16 May 2013
  14. ^ a b Lebanon Says: Being Gay Is Not a Disease and Needs No Treatment
  15. ^ "Lebanese court throws out case against transgender woman accused of 'unnatural sex'. Gay Star News
  16. ^ "Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime Nor Against Nature". The Huffington Post
  17. ^ Lebanon Edges Closer to Decriminalizing Same-sex Conduct Human Rights Watch
  18. ^ In rare Lebanon sit-in, LBGT activists protest against article 534
  19. ^ Lebanese politicians call for decriminalisation of gay sex, PinkNews, 14 March 2018
  20. ^ Activists hail Lebanon ruling that could protect gay rights, The Times of Israel, 19 July 2018
  21. ^ Appeals court in Lebanon rules consensual same-sex relations are not unlawful
  22. ^ a b Transgender ruling in Lebanon an 'empowering' moment
  23. ^ ‹See Tfd›(in Arabic) تغيير الجنس في حكم قضائي جديد: احترام حق الفرد في تغيير حاله
  24. ^ Lebanese judge grants trans man right to change gender
  25. ^ Lebanon allows trans man to legally change his gender Pink News
  26. ^ "Criteria for blood donor selection" (pdf). Lebanese Committee of Blood Transfusion. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  27. ^ ندى عبد الصمد (19 May 2006). "BBC report in Arabic about Lebanese gays". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  28. ^ Ghattas, Kim (26 May 2006). "BBC report by Kim Ghattas: Landmark meeting for gay Lebanese". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  29. ^ "Meem Website". Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  30. ^ Qiblawi, Tamara (May 16, 2017). "Beirut gay pride event a first for Lebanon". CNN. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  31. ^ "Gay Lebanese scrap pride event because of threats". France 24. 2017-05-21. Archived from the original on 2017-08-03. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  32. ^ Homsi, Nada; Hubbard, Ben (May 16, 2018). "Lebanon Is Known as Gay Friendly. But Pride Week Was Shut Down". The New York Times. For members of Lebanon’s gay community, Beirut Pride week was intended as a way to celebrate diversity, fight discrimination and push for more rights and recognition. But that dream came crashing down this week when the Lebanese authorities detained the celebration’s organizer, releasing him only after he promised to cancel the remaining events.
  33. ^ Qiblawi, Tamara (4 May 2018). "Gay rights come to the fore as Lebanon prepares to vote". CNN. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  34. ^ Nearly 100 Lebanese politicians openly support LGBTQ rights
  35. ^ Al Arabiya report on protests against gay organizations in Lebanon Archived January 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "report on Minister Fatfat's reaction". Lebanon: ''The Daily Star''. 19 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  37. ^ Barra magazine page on Helem website Archived October 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "''Bareed Mista3jil'' Official book website". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  39. ^ "Helem Montreal website". Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  40. ^ "Helem Paris page on Helem website". Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  41. ^ The Global Divide on Homosexuality
  42. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo

External links