LGBT rights in Lebanon

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LGBT rights in Lebanon Lebanon
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Gender identity/expression Yes, transgender people may change legal gender following surgery
Discrimination protections No
Family rights
Recognition of
Adoption No

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 community. 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[1] making homosexuality de-facto legal.[2][3][4]

A poll done by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[5] But recently, there was an increase in the acceptance of LGBT people by the society. And that happened especially after the Lebanese National Center for Psychiatry declassified the non-heterosexual sexual orientations as mental disorders, and this was a first in an Arabic-speaking country.

Legality of same-sex sexual acts[edit]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

In 2012, then Justice Minsiter 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.[7]

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.[9] 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."[10]

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".[11]

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.[7][12][13]

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.[7][14]

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."[15] In May 2016, LGBT activists staged a sit-in, demanding Article 534 be repealed.[16]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

LGBT flag map of Lebanon

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.[17][18][19] Transgender people are required to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to change their legal gender.[20]

Freedom of speech and expression[edit]

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

LGBT publications[edit]

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.[21]

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.[22] The book was launched in Masrah Al Madina by the Feminist Collective and IndyAct. Selected stories from "Bareed Mista3jil" were selected and read both in English and Arabic.

Media campaigns[edit]

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.

LGBT rights movement in Lebanon[edit]

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 a few public demonstrations, lectures and fundraisers for AIDS education.

In 2006, Helem celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Monroe Hotel Downtown in Beirut.[23][24]

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 counseling, an activity center, legal support, social events, and the opportunity to work on social change.[25] Meem also hosts a Womyn House that serves as an activity and resource center in Beirut.

LGBT rights in Lebanese politics[edit]

None of the major or minor political parties or factions have publicly endorsed any of the goals of these gay rights organizations. 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.[26] 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 conservative Muslim clerics that the Government had approved a gay rights group.[27]

Lebanese LGBT movement in the diaspora[edit]

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[28] (where Helem has obtained legal registration) and Paris.[29]

Public opinion[edit]

A poll done by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[5] A 2013 Pew poll found the same results, 18% believe homosexuality should be accepted and 80% oppose. Younger people were more likely to support acceptance with 27% in favor than those between 30 and 49 (17%) and those over 50 (10%).[30]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, a 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.[31]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity Yes
Equal age of consent Yes
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
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2016)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes (Since 2013)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laws of nature, Beirut: Economist, 14 May 2014, retrieved 4 June 2014 
  2. ^ Does a new ruling offer fresh hope for LGBT rights in Lebanon? BBC News
  4. ^ Is Lebanon on the path to decriminalizing homosexuality?
  5. ^ a b The Pew Global Project Attitudes (PDF), Washington, D.C.: PewResearchCenter, 4 October 2007, retrieved 3 September 2011 
  6. ^ "Sodomy reporting on Lebanese media coverage on arrest of two lesbians". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d Lebanon court: Gay sex is natural; anti-gay law weakens Erasing 76 Crimes
  8. ^ "Lebanese Judge Rules Against the Use of Article 534 To Prosecute Homosexuals". Bekhsoos. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Lebanese mayor cracks down on homosexuality in his town". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "Lebanon: Homosexuals no longer 'perverts,' but still target", Ynetnews, reported by Roi Kais, 16 May 2013
  11. ^ Lebanon Says: Being Gay Is Not a Disease and Needs No Treatment
  12. ^ Lebanese court throws out case against transgender woman accused of ‘unnatural sex’ Gay Star News
  13. ^ Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime Nor Against Nature The Huffington Post
  14. ^ Lebanon Edges Closer to Decriminalizing Same-sex Conduct Human Rights Watch
  15. ^ The fight goes on for Lebanon's LGBT community
  16. ^ In rare Lebanon sit-in, LBGT activists protest against article 534
  17. ^ Transgender ruling in Lebanon an 'empowering' moment
  18. ^ (Arabic) تغيير الجنس في حكم قضائي جديد: احترام حق الفرد في تغيير حاله
  19. ^ Lebanese judge grants trans man right to change gender
  20. ^ Lebanon allows trans man to legally change his gender Pink News
  21. ^ Barra magazine page on Helem website Archived October 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "''Bareed Mista3jil'' Official book website". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  23. ^ ندى عبد الصمد (19 May 2006). "BBC report in Arabic about Lebanese gays". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  24. ^ Ghattas, Kim (26 May 2006). "BBC report by Kim Ghattas: Landmark meeting for gay Lebanese". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "Meem Website". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  26. ^ Al Arabiya report on protests against gay organizations in Lebanon Archived January 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ "report on Minister Fatfat's reaction". Lebanon: ''The Daily Star''. 19 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  28. ^ "Helem Montreal website". Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  29. ^ "Helem Paris page on Helem website". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  30. ^ The Global Divide on Homosexuality
  31. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo

External links[edit]