Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

Lebanon LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)

 

Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code states “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature is punishable by up to one year in prison.” This article has often been used to prosecute people who are suspected of being LGBT, though the phrase “contrary to the order of nature” is often interpreted differently by different judges. 

The Preamble of the Constitution declares that Lebanon abides by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that “the Government shall embody these principles in all fields and areas without exception.” It continues by saying that “Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic based on respect for public liberties, especially the freedom of opinion and belief, and respect for social justice and equality of rights and duties among all citizens without discrimination.” However, in practice, the Lebanese government has subjected LGBTI individuals to multiple forms of discrimination. For example, Lebanon's authorities have recognized that inhumane treatment in interrogation and detention still occurs. Though Lebanon has ratified the Convention Against Torture, the definition of torture in the Lebanese Penal Code is not as comprehensive as that in the Convention, limiting it to acts "carried out with the purpose of extrating a confession or obtaining information."

There are no laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals in Lebanon.

CASE LAW

 Since 2007, there have been multiple court cases in Lebanon that were promising for the recognition of LGBTI human rights. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find the primary documentation of these cases, but links to NGO reports and news articles discussing the cases are provided below.

2007: Judge Mounir Suleiman stops a criminal investigation of two men arrested for same-sex conduct, disputing that homosexuality was “contrary to the order of nature” and arguing that sexual conduct perceived to be “unnatural” is often a reflection of social mores. 

2009: A judge acquits a defendant charged under Article 534 of the Penal Code by arguing that the concept of nature is a socio=cultural construct, and therefore it is impossible to determine that any behavior is categorically unnatural.

2014: A court dismisses a case against a transgender woman and cisgender man, stating that homosexuality was not "unnatural."

2017: Judge Rabih Maalouf argues that “homosexuality is a personal choice, not a criminal offence.” He refers to Article 183 of the Penal Code which states, “an act undertaken in the exercise of a right without abuse shall not be regarded as an offense.” 

PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT

Lebanon has long been a more culturally diverse and, in some ways, more tolerant place than other countries in the Middle East with regard to homosexuality. However, people who are LGBTI or suspected of being LGBTI are often harassed and blackmailed. For example, LGBT individuals are mocked on TV, gender-non-conforming people are at risk of being arrested on suspicion of homosexual acts, and police still regularly raid nightclubs frequented by gay men. Additionally, LGBTI people living outside of Beirut may face significantly different challenges than those in the city. 

According to a Pew poll from 2013, 18% of people in Lebanon believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Though still a minority, the percentage is still much larger than in surrounding countries. 

The Lebanese NGO Legal Agenda has claimed that the majority of rights violations in Lebanon toward LGBT people are perpetrated by the state, rather than by citizens. They see it as part of the state’s broader tendency to mistreat members of all marginalized communities. 

Lebanon’s main police force, the Internal Security Forces (ISF), is in charge of enforcing “morality-related” laws, some of which target LGBTI people. The precarious legal status of LGBTI people in Lebanon, combined with social stigma around them, makes them particularly vulnerable to police abuses. Verbal abuse, physical violence, and other forms of torture toward LGBTI people have been reported at various police stations around Beirut. Although a complaints mechanism does exist, LGBT people often avoid reporting torture or degrading treatment due to fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity will exposed.

Until 2012, it was common state practice to use forced anal exams on arrested for homosexual conduct. However, in 2012 Lebanese activists labeled the exams “Tests of Shame” and successfully mounted a public campaign against the practice. As a result of the campaign, the Lebanese Order of Physicians and the Ministry of Justice “issue[d] guidelines prohibiting the use of forced anal exams.” However, Human Rights Watch has found that some judges in Lebanon are still asking for forced anal exams of homosexual men and some doctors are still performing them. Police are now using techniques other than anal tests to “prove” one’s homosexuality. For example, they will check the person’s cell phone apps, contacts, and pictures on social media to determine if he/she is LGBT. However, most judges no longer use jail time as punishment for homosexuality, decreasing the risk of inhumane treatment in prison. Instead, those who are arrested must usually pay a fine.

Politicians still negatively target the LGBTI community in their rhetoric. For example, in 2013 the mayor of the Beirut suburb of Dekwaneh ordered security forces to raid and shut down a gay-friendly nightclub. The minister of interior at the time backed the mayor’s actions, saying, “Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality, and according to Lebanese law it is a criminal offence.” The next year, the Internal Security Forces Morals Protection Bureau conducted a raid on a Turkish hamam in Beirut due to the “suspected presence of homosexual individuals.” Though no evidence of sexual activity was found at the hammam, the arrestees were forced to confess to homosexual acts and prostitution. In order to obtain these confessions, torture was used. 

Nonetheless, progress in the country has been made. For example, in 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society publicly declared that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. In 2015, they updated their statement to call for the abolition of Article 534. In 2016, Lebanon recognized the existence of a transgender man for the first time, and allowed him to change his gender on public records. Additionally, organizations such as Helem and Proud Lebanon, which work on LGBTI rights, have been allowed to register and participate in Lebanese civil society.

In May 2017, Lebanon hosted its first week of Pride events. However, these cannot be considered a sign of general acceptance of the LGBT community in the country, as the events were met with a significant amount of social backlash. Sunni extremists sympathetic to al-Qaeda prevented some of the activities from occurring, while simultaneously a church in Tripoli held a conference about how to “convert homosexuals to normative sexual behavior.” The Hezbollah Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah, declared that homosexuality was an import from the West and that “homosexual relations defy logic, human nature, and the human mind.” 

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)

Though NGOs focused on LGBTI issues do exist in Lebanon, we have yet to receive permission to list them here.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS

Dr Maya Mikdashi

Email: mtmikdashiatgmail [dot] com 

Dr. Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She completed her PhD in Anthropology from the Columbia University, 2014. Her current research/manuscript focuses on the law, archives, citizenship, secularity, religious conversion, sexual difference, war on terror in Lebanon. She has been a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow from 2014-2016 at the Rutgers University, and a Faculty Fellow/Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University (2012-2014). She has published widely in journals including International Journal of Middle East Studies, Comparative Study of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, and the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. Maya has also contributed to several edited volumes.  She is a co-founding editor of Jadaliyya.com and co- founding member of filmmaking cooperative Quilting Point Productions.

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