LGBT Rights

In Lebanon, there still exists social, cultural and religious taboos related to sex between two men and two women. Same sex behavior is forbidden and is seen as perverse or as a symptom of mental illness. Homosexuals are often stigmatized and penalized, which leads many to live an underground life.

Testimonies : 

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.

“The problem in Lebanon isn’t so much with society, although there’s still a lot of ignorance,” said Nadim who works as a photographer. ”The problem is the state. If I get beaten up and go to the police, I could be jailed for being gay, not my attackers.”

“The article [534] is not clear. There are a lot of explanations from the judges; it is arbitrary. There is no persecution [condemnation] of MSM by the government. However, at any time, policemen have the right to arrest homosexuals. Last year [2007], we had 20 cases from Tripoli [North Lebanon] arrested for homosexuality. Another 35 cases were attacked on the streets but they did not get any help because they are considered criminals. It is not only about the law; it is about the use of the law by the police.” [National Coordinator of Helem]

Legal frameworks, gaps and practices : 

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. 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 homosexuality, along with adultery, sodomy and fornication.

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. Other arrests of gay couples, or police raids of nightclubs where gay men patronize, are frequently reported in local newspapers.

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 faced military charges for maintaining a website for gay and lesbian Lebanese.

For Lebanese lesbians marginalization is magnified due to the status of women in Lebanese society. Many lesbians have expressed death threats from family members, abuse and harassment, which leads lesbians to remain more invisible than their male counterparts.

Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code punishes sexual relations “contrary to nature by up to one year imprisonment. In addition, articles 518 - 522 of the Penal Code refer to ‘shameless acts’ or ‘indecent acts’ which carry a penalty of up to six months imprisonment. Combined, these laws allow for the persecution and harassment of lesbians as well as heterosexual women who are sexually active outside of marriage.

By criminalizing same-sex sexual behavior, the state is effectively suppressing the emergence of any form of lesbian organizing. Through the dual process of social sanctions and legal prohibitions, lesbians are forced to keep their identities hidden, preventing them from actively participating in public life in a manner that reflects their needs and circumstances. Cutting and eliminating support for an organization that deals with the sexual rights and freedoms of women also contravenes Article 14 (a), (f), and Article 8.

Many lesbians are subjected to physical and mental violence by parents, siblings or other family members and their movements are restricted. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also states carefully that the possibility of honor crimes “can not be excluded”1. Because of the taboo nature of both female sexuality and of domestic violence coupled with the illegality of the women’s sexuality, cases of domestic violence go unreported. This is a direct breach of Article 5 (a), where such violations are based on stereotyped roles for men and women, including compulsory heterosexuality.

The abolishment of Article 534 is vital to reducing state and sociétal persécution of Lebanon’s LGBT community, which continues to violate their privacy and deny them basic human rights. It will also pave the way for achieving equality for the LGBT community. It is important to continue to document court proceedings regarding the LGBT community, training of lawyers to be sensitive to LGBT issues and perhaps sessions organized with lawyers and judges to introduce the rights discourse to courts.

It is recommended that there be an introduction of anti-discrimination measures on the basis of sexual orientation and the development of mechanisms for the implémentions of the provision, introducing a compréhensive, évidence-based sexual éducation program in the Lebanese schools to confront the sociétal stigma surrounding sex and the inclusion of sexual orientation. 

Recent verdict from a court in Batroun in relation to Article 534, in which the judge discussed nature, negating the application of the Article on homosexuals : … whereas on the other hand the law didn’t define a specific concept of nature or a standard to measure how the act is in conformity with or against nature or its laws; whereas if it were up to the Judge’s decision, we believe that man has not been able to understand all the aspects of the laws of nature and is still trying to explore nature and his own even; whereas based on the aforementioned, the concept of the ‘unnatural’ is related to society’s mindset, customs and its acceptability of new natural patterns which he’s not familiar with or that are not acceptable yet; whereas man is part of nature and one of its elements, and a cell within a cell in it, it cannot be said that any practice of his or any behavior of his is against nature even if it is a criminal act because it is the laws of nature. If it rained in summer, if a heat wave struck in winter, or if a tree bore fruit after its usual time, it is all in accordance with the system and laws of nature for it is nature itself…