June 15, 2015 – Reported by Al-Monitor – “You don’t have to be gay to defend gay rights,” insist a number of popular Lebanese public figures in an advocacy video released by civil society organization Proud Lebanon in the leadup to the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17.
Despite a few modest achievements, the Lebanese lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community still struggles for acceptance and basic rights.
“Even if we’re different, we shouldn’t disagree,” asserted celebrities such as TV host Fouad Yammine, urging fellow citizens to challenge problematic laws that allow for the persecution of members of the LGBT community in Lebanon.
While Lebanese law does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality, Article 534 of the penal code, which prohibits “sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature,” is often used to prosecute LGBT people, even though “nature” has not been legally defined in Lebanon.
Yammine called campaigns like Proud Lebanon’s important, but lamented their negligible impact. Lebanon, he told Al-Monitor, is burdened by a culture of “tamyeez” (Arabic for “othering”). “I would say 99% of society is anti-LGBT rights. It is a society full of stereotypes. If Muslims and Christians are still afraid of each other, of course we have homophobia.”
But Sarah Wansa, a researcher with NGO Legal Agenda, said it would be an overstatement to label Lebanese society “homophobic,” or to place blame for the persecution of LGBT people largely on the shoulders of bigoted citizens.
Legal Agenda monitors law and public policy in Lebanon, documents the mistreatment of marginalized communities by the criminal justice system and engages in legal activism aimed at securing the rights of vulnerable groups.
Wansa told Al-Monitor that Legal Agenda has found most of the rights violations experienced by LGBT people in Lebanon to have been “carried out by the state,” which, she claimed, has displayed a tendency toward “mistreating members of all marginalized communities, including the lower classes, migrant workers and refugees.”…story continues below…