LGBT rights in Lebanon


LGBT rights in Lebanon

Homosexuality remains a crime in Lebanon, but the country is unusual and unique among Arab-majority nations in that it has a small internal gay rights movement.

Illegality

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. This prohibits male homosexuality, along with adultery, sodomy and fornication, while for females, lesbian sexual activities are not illegal, because they do not involve penetration .

As a practical matter, enforcement of the law is varied and often occurs through occasional police harassment and arrests. In 2002, the police broke into a woman's house after her mother claimed that her daughter had stolen some money and jewellery. Upon entering the house, the police found the woman having sexual relations with another woman and charged them both with the crime of sodomy. [http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/lebanon/lbnews001.htm] Other arrests of gay couples, or police raids of nightclubs where gay men patronize, are frequently reported in local newspapers.

In November of 2005, the Lebanese police raided "Acid Nightclub" in Sin el Fil, and arrested a group of gay men including Paul Daccache known by "Hamchare Paul" the head of the group.Aside from the criminal law, gay Lebanese civilians have been charged with violating censorship laws regulating free speech and free press. In 2000, the webmaster of gaylebanon.com faced military charges for maintaining a website for gay and lesbian Lebanese. [http://www.meib.org/articles/0010_ldoc0923.htm]

Community

In 2002, a gay rights organization was started in Lebanon. The "Hurriyyat Khassa" or Private Liberties seeks to reform Article 534 of the criminal code so that sexual relations between consenting adults in private are no longer a crime. Another gay rights organization in Lebanon is called "Helem" ("Dream" in Arabic and an acronym for the Lebanese protection of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community). These organizations have staged a few public demonstrations, lectures, fundraisers for AIDS education, charitable events and exhibitions of films and have been interviewed by the Lebanese media.

In 2004, gay rights supporters hosted a showing of the 1961 British film Victim at the American University in Beirut. After the video, a heated discussion followed between advocates for gay rights, and those who felt that homosexuality should remain illegal, based on traditional religious moral values. [http://www.sodomylaws.org/world/lebanon/lbnews005.htm]

Also, in 2004, the fashion magazine Aishti sponsored a series of advertisements on Beirut billboards with three men and three women embracing. The six were fashionably dressed in different color tops representing the gay rainbow flag. The billboards read: "Vote For Tolerance". [http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/news/article41.htm]

While these organizations have been permitted to exist, and gain some degree of publicity, they have little public support. According to one of the founders of "Private Liberties," the organization has some support from lawyers, doctors and journalists that have worked on human rights issues, along with some left-wing members of the "Khatt Mubashir."

Lebanon is the only Middle-east country besides Israel and Turkey which showed the film Brokeback Mountain. Circuit Planete started showing the movie on March 23, 2006 and ran it for a month. In Lebanon, the movie’s duration is 2 hours and 10 minutes which is only 4 minutes less than the original uncensored movie. This leads to speculation about whether the movie will be censored or kept as it is.

2006 also witnessed the opening of more gay-positive venues in Beirut. In addition to the famously gay-friendly clubs Acid and X-OM, the club UV reopened in May after a long absence, possibly caused by the police . The gay-owned Walimat Wardeh bar has become increasingly more popular, and has been joined by a new bear bar Wolf. Wolf has received criticism, however, for its discrimination against "feminine" gay men.

In May 2006, Helem and La CD-Theque published the first book in Arabic about Homophobia. On May 19, Helem organized a book-signing event in the presence of the Lebanese media. "Homophobia: Views and Positions" (رهاب المثلية: مواقف وشهادات) is the first book of its kind in Arabic in the region. Bringing together some of Lebanon's most gifted writers as well as a host of local intellectuals and activists, Homophobia is a book that challenges and sparks much needed debate about the violence that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals face and the silence that protects and condones it. [http://www.helem.net/page.zn?id=43]

In August 2007, a lesbian group 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. [http://www.meemgroup.org Meem Website] . Meem also hosts a Womyn House that serves as an activity and resource center in Beirut.

Politics

None of the political parties or factions have publicly endorsed any of the goals of these human rights organizations. On May 29, 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. [http://www.alarabiya.net/Articles/2006/05/29/24200.htm] The June 16 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. [http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=73289]

In 2003, Lebanese media reported that the Lebanon Dunkin Donuts store refused to serve customers that looked gay. The policy was defended by the General Manager, "We have kids of all ages coming to our shop, and I want the parents to be assured that when their kids come here they are being taken care of,” she said. [http://www.gaymiddleeast.com/news/article5.htm]

Also in 2003, the Lebanese drag queen entertainer named Bassem Feghali temporarily gave up his cross-dressing career in order to serve one year in the military, a requirement of Lebanese law. After his military service, Feghali returned to his successful career of impersonating female celebrities. [http://www.freewebs.com/bassem_feghali/]

In 2005, a group of Lebanese gay men fled to the Netherlands, seeking asylum. They argued that, because homosexuality is a crime in Lebanon, they would be treated as criminals if they returned to Lebanon. [http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=50548&SelectRegion=Middle_East] Canada has given some Lebanese gays asylum. [http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/research/rir/?action=record.viewrec&gotorec=451593]

In 2006, Helem celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia in Monroe Hotel Downtown. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/arabic/middle_east_news/newsid_4997000/4997426.stm] [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5019908.stm] The event shocked the majority of the Lebanese. Lebanese Police was protecting the hotel during the event.

AIDS-HIV

Lebanon is the first country in the Middle East to handle HIV/AIDS issues with open discussions.Fact|date=January 2007 The first reported cases of infection were in 1984, and misinformation about the virus is still commonplace. The Lebanese AIDS Society, The Lebanese Red Cross Youth, and Helem are all non-governmental organizations providing education and treatment options.

The Lebanese government reports that 756 infected persons are living in Lebanon, but most public health advocates believe that the actual number is much larger, possibly in the several thousands. The United Nations estimates that around 2,900 are infected. [http://www.unaids.org/en/CountryResponses/Countries/lebanon.asp]

External links

* [http://www.helem.net/ Helem Home Page]
* [http://www.gaylebanon.info/ Gay Lebanon]
* [http://www.gaymiddleeast.com Gay Middle East]
* [http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,443678,00.html Sex and Taboos in the Islamic World]
* [http://www.meemgroup.org Meem, Community of and for LBTQ Women in Lebanon]


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