HRC Blog

Lebanon Court: LGBT is not a Crime nor Against Nature

In a landmark decision for Lebanon’s LGBTQ community, a court in Beirut ruled in January, and made public only yesterday, that same-sex relations are not “contradicting the laws of nature” and therefore are not a crime. The decision was reported in The Daily Star, the leading English language newspaper in the Middle East.

Lebanon’s penal code still upholds Article 534, which punishes sexual acts “contradicting the laws of nature” with up to a year in prison. It has been traditionally used to prosecute LGBT people; however, this ruling could change the definition of what is regarded as “against nature.”

Judge Naji El Dahdah of Jdeide Court in Beirut rejected the case that was brought up by the state against a transgender woman who was accused of having “same-sex relations.” This decision was based on a 2011 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman, which stated that same-sex relations were not against nature, and hence could not be prosecuted under Article 534. Both rulings establish precedent that could ensure that same-sex sexual activity in Lebanon, a majority-Muslim nation in the Middle East, is no longer considered criminal or under the purview of Article 534.

“It’s a big step; it shows we’re moving in the right direction,” said Georges Azzi, a prominent activist for LGBT rights who is also the co-founder of Helem, a Lebanese group that has long been campaigning to change the law.

In a step forward for gender identity and expression rights in Lebanon, Dahdah also stated that a person’s gender should not simply be based on their personal status registry document, but also on their outward physical appearance and self-perception.

In a country where only 18% say that LGBT people should be accepted by society according to a 2013 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll, Lebanese LGBT people are optimistic that change is possible.

"I wish the courts would protect us," said Jimmy, who only gave his first name in an email to HRC, noting that Lebanese society and the government have been slow to embrace homosexuality. Mohammad, a gay man living in Beirut, added that the court's decision is a good one, "especially in a country that claims to respect freedom and democracy." "Gay people are natural, not sick," Mohammad said. "Society has to respect them and their decisions, recognize their rights."

Last year the Lebanese Psychiatric Society issued guidance saying that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not warrant treatment, going as far as to state that "conversion therapy” has no scientific backing.

"By decriminalizing love, the Lebanese judicial system is sending a powerful message to the region that a deeper spiritual calling of truth to sanctify life and human dignity far surpasses the hate that drives a wedge between our shared and common humanity," said Michael Toumayan at HRC's Religion and Faith Program. Commenting on the ruling, a Lebanese university student studying in the District of Columbia was hopeful, adding, “I hope the ruling gains traction in the national agenda to propel and change conversations among Lebanese families on LGBT rights. We must strive to debunk the myth that one cannot be Lebanese and LGBT.”

Join the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) #LoveConquersHate campaign and show your support for Middle East's beleaguered LGBT community with HRC's new Arabic "Love Conquers Hate" t-shirt - الحبيغلب الكراهية

comments powered by Disqus