LGBT rights in Lebanon
|LGBT rights in Lebanon|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal|
No (de jure)Yes (de facto: as the Lebanese constitution and laws ensure equality between all citizens of all races, religions, political beliefs, sex or sexual orientations)
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons living in Lebanon may face difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT residents. In 2014, a judge in the court of Jdeideh ruled in favor of invalidating the application of Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code to prosecute homosexual activities. Article 534, which prohibits having sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature" was being used against homosexuals. The judge ruled that homosexuality is not against nature, thus rendering the prosecution of homosexuals under this article ineffective.
A poll done by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed "Homosexuality should be rejected", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted". 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.
Laws on homosexuality
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 is varied and often occurs 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.
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 a historic moment, counted among the top 5 LGBT achievements worldwide in LGBT by change.org, a Lebanese judge in Batroun ruled against the use of article 534 to prosecute homosexuals.
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. 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."
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, LPS ruled that "conversion therapy", seeking to "convert" gays into straights has no scientific background and asked health professionals to "rely only on science" when giving opinion and treatment in this matter. And that makes Lebanon the first Arab country to declassify homosexuality as a "disease".
On 28 January 2014 a Lebanese judge of Jdeideh court, Beirut, ruled out a case against an intersex-born self-identified woman accused of having "unnatural" sexual relationship with a man. The ruling rendered the article 534, which is historically used to prosecute same-sex relationships, inapplicable for the case. This law was banned in 2014.
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.
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.
Helem also has its own website including a regular online newsletter publication.
In 2009, "Bareed Mista3jil" is a book published by the Lebanese lesbian Feminist Collective (FC) organization in Beirut. The organization is also called Nasawiya and is a group of activits 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. 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.
In may of 2015, Proud Lebanon, a Lebanese non-profit organization, marked the International Day Against Homophobia (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.
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 a few public demonstrations, lectures and fundraisers for AIDS education.
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. Meem also hosts a Womyn House that serves as an activity and resource center in Beirut.
LGBT in Lebanese politics
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, Al-Arabiya.net ran a piece in which Beirut municipality council member Saad-Eddine Wazzan publicly called on Lebanese PM Fouad Sanyoura and Minister of Interior Ahmad Fatfat to shut down Helem. The 16 June Friday 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, Lebanon's acting Interior Minister Ahmed Fatfat denied charges by conservative Muslim clerics that the government had approved a gay rights group.
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), Paris.
- Laws of nature, Beirut: Economist, 14 May 2014, retrieved 4 June 2014
- The Pew Global Project Attitudes (PDF), Washington, D.C.: PewResearchCenter, 4 October 2007, retrieved 3 September 2011
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- Jones, Michael. "Top 5 Triumphs for LGBT Rights Worldwide | Gay Rights | Change.org". Gayrights.change.org. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- "Lebanese Judge Rules Against the Use of Article 534 To Prosecute Homosexuals". Bekhsoos. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- "Lebanese mayor cracks down on homosexuality in his town". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- "Lebanon: Homosexuals no longer 'perverts,' but still target", Ynetnews, reported by Roi Kais, 16 May 2013
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- Helem Home Page
- Gay Lebanon
- Gay Middle East
- Lebtour, the Lebanese Gay guide
- Sex and Taboos in the Islamic World
- Meem, Community of and for LBTQ Women in Lebanon
- Winq Magazine article on Lebanon
- New York Times Article: Beirut, the Provincetown of the Middle East
- Lebanon Rebel, a blog about being a Lesbian in the middle east