To speak of fighting homophobia in Lebanon might strike as an odd thing to do for some of you. After all, what decency might be found in some parts of Lebanon, mostly in and around Beirut, is dwarfed by the overwhelming discrimination suffered in the rest of the country.
The Current Situation
Lebanon’s LGBTIQ population can be legally targeted under the now-notorious Article 534 which states that sexual relations “contradicting the laws of nature” are punishable offenses. Of course, anyone with a basic understanding of sexuality knows that there is absolutely nothing unnatural about homosexuality. There is literally not a single evidence suggesting so, and a mountain of evidence suggesting the opposite.
In fact, that’s exactly what a judge ruled on January 28th 2014. When an unnamed transgender woman was accused of having sex with a man, Judge Naji El Dahdad of Jdeide Court rejected the case, stating that:
- Gender identity is not only defined by the legal papers, the evolution of the person and his/her perception of his/her gender should be taken into consideration.
- Homosexuality is an exception to the norms but not unnatural therefore article 534 (which prohibits sexual relations that “contradict the laws of nature”) cannot be used against homosexuals, and therefore, technically, homosexuality is not illegal.
This statement followed a previous statement by another judge, Mounir Suleiman, in December of 2009 which goes like this: “Man is part of nature and is one of its elements, so it cannot be said that any one of his practices or any one of his behaviors goes against nature, even if it is criminal behavior, because it is nature’s ruling.”
Another good news is last year’s statement by the Lebanese Psychiatric Association which declared that “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated”. The announcement was met with applause throughout Lebanon’s moderate and progressive circles and allowed Lebanese LGBTIQ to temporarily heave a sigh of relief. The full statement stated:
- “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated.”
- “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.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s really not that complicated.
We should neither overstate nor understate the importance of such statements. It is an important step forward, one that we can justifiably be proud of. But we should also remember that the battle is far from over.
Article 534’s vagueness can be used in our favor since it doesn’t explicitly mention homosexuality. All we need to do is point out that any sexual orientation cannot be unnatural, by definition. But having a basic human right legalized is just one step in a country where law enforcement is synonymous with whatever-the-oligarchy-deems-worth-enforcing. The fact of the matter is that the struggle for Gay rights, just like the struggle for women’s rights, labor rights and any other form of human rights, is a struggle against Sectarian Corruption as well.
The importance of celebrating IDAHOT…
The International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia or IDAHOT is an annual event – last year’s coverage – falling on the 17th of May with the purpose of fighting homophobia/transphobia. It is by far the single largest anti-homophobia event that happens worldwide. Since its inception in 2004, it has reached around 120 countries from South America to Asia passing by the Middle East, North America and Africa. It is officially recognized by the governments of Mexico, the UK, Belgium, Costa Rica, Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Spain, Brazil and Croatia as well as by the European Parliament.
The goals to be addressed on every May 17th are as follow:
- Draw media attention to the issue of homophobia and transphobia
- Organise events which mobilize public opinion
- Demand attention from policymakers and engage in lobbying activities
- Network with like-minded organizations and develop new partnerships, at home or beyond
- Mobilize existing constituencies and address new audiences.
… in LebanonDear Friends
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT 2014) is here once again and we are happy to announce that we have a whole day planned on Saturday May 17, 2014 to discuss the major developments that happened since last May in Lebanon.
This year’s event will focus more on the activism itself, and will have two panels of experts that will be speaking on the events of last year as well as the future of the LGBT movement in Lebanon. We hope to be able to reach out to communities and groups that we have not reached out to before. There will still be fun activities and performances, never fear! But we also aim to take this opportunity and really drive the message home.
This is a public invitation and we truly hope you would be able to join us! Until then, we also welcome all your suggestions and comments and look forward to a successful IDAHOT 2014!