‘Love Always Wins’: Inside the Fight for LGBT Equality in Lebanon

LGBT activists in Lebanon are drawing up a proposed law to be presented to parliament intended to remove current articles and laws used to criminalize homosexuality in the country.

Hadi Damien, organizer of Beirut Pride, told The Daily Beast that the proposed law was being drawn up by members of Beirut Pride, campaigners, lawyers, and judges.

It follows a significant appeals court ruling in July, stating that consensual sex between people of the same sex is not an “unnatural offense.”

Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told The Daily Beast that the case could still go to Lebanon’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, which could overturn the ruling. Lawyers representing LGBT campaigners are preparing themselves should such a legal scenario unfold.

“But as far as we know,” said Ghoshal, “the government has not signaled its intention to appeal the ruling. Maybe the government is happy for the appeals court to have the final say on this.”

There are no signs, said Ghoshal, that in the short term the majority of the Lebanese parliament supports repealing Article 534.

“The parliament is heavily socially conservative and more so than the past. Is there a sense of optimism that in 10 or 20 years that the law can be struck down? Absolutely. That’s what people are looking forward to.”

The positive court rulings follow other incidences of LGBT progress. In 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society stated that homosexuality was not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated as such, and called for the abolition of Article 534 in 2015.

In 2012, the Lebanese Order of Physicians banned doctors from conducting the “egg test,” which involved inserting a metal egg-shaped object into the rectum of suspected gay men as a means of determining their sexual orientation.

Next, activists are looking to bring more cases before the courts, said Ghoshal, as well as improving sexual health services for LGBT people in what is still a fairly conservative society. Helem, she said, also wants to use an LGBT center as both space and center for bringing people together to plan future activism.

HRW also wants to look to address the issues faced by trans people in Lebanon around discrimination in employment, housing, and health services. “All these seem to be much bigger problems for trans communities than LGB people, who have achieved a degree of social acceptance, or recognition, or who at least can blend in,” said Ghoshal.

Activists in the country, said Ghoshal, also want to focus on “vague morality laws that can be used on LGBT people; and then there are gaps in law that need addressing, such as trans people being able to change the gender marker on their identity documents.” Read more via Daily Beast