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Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime Nor Against Nature

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Lebanese in a demonstration last year demanding greater LGBT rights

A court in Lebanon has made a historic ruling stating same-sex relations are not "contradicting the laws of nature" and cannot therefore be considered a crime, said a statement only revealed today.

Judge Naji El Dahdah, of Jdeide Court, Beirut, threw out a case brought against unnamed transgender woman by the Lebanese state on January 28, 2014 but only published today.

The transgender woman was accused by the state of having "same sex relationship with a man".

However, El Dahdah rejected the case based on accepting a previous ruling by the Lebanese NGO, Legal Agenda and Helem, which was as follows:

  • 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.

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.

However in 2009, the Lebanon-based LGBT organization Helem successfully mounted a legal campaign that resulted in a Lebanese judge in Batroun ruling against the use of article 534 to prosecute LGBT people.

Last year the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) ruled that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated.

It stated:

The assumption that homosexuality is a result of disturbances in the family dynamic or unbalanced psychological development is based on wrong information.

LPS further ruled that "conversion therapy"(also known as Ex-Gay), seeking to "convert" gays into straights has no scientific backing and asked health professionals to "rely only on science" when giving opinion and treatment in this matter.

Commenting on the news, Georges Azzi, the executive director for the Beirut based Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality told me:

We are moving towards making article 534 completely irrelevant, this decision followed the achievements listed above and others in Lebanon that have been pushing for more judges to use this reasoning.

This has been our strategy since the current political situation in Lebanon does not allow any change in the penal code.

Although the concept of legal precedent does not apply in Lebanon, hopefully this ruling will encourage more judges to make the right choice.

Trans people in Lebanon need a court order to change their sex legally based on a report of three psychologists and a psychiatrist.

The process is long and arduous deterring many and therefore their name and gender remains unchanged in their legal documentation.

Currently Helem and Marsa, a Sexual Health Center in Lebanon, offer legal, medical and psychological assistance to transgender people.

Azzi also added: "Hopefully it can be replicated in other Arab states which have similar legislation, but it is up to the judges to work with previous rulings and documentation."

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