On Feb 2, 2017 Human Rights Watch reported: A Lebanese judge challenged the legal basis of the arrest of men for same-sex conduct, declaring in a Metn court ruling last week that “homosexuality is a personal choice, not a criminal offence”.
In doing so, the judge, Rabih Maalouf, questioned the interpretation of Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which states “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature is punishable by up to one year in prison.” The vague wording – what is “the order of nature”? – is open to interpretation and has been used to prosecute people suspected of homosexuality.
In his ruling, Judge Maalouf referred to a penal code provision protecting freedom of expression, Article 183, which states that, “An act undertaken in exercise of a right without abuse shall not be regarded as an offense.” If no harm is done, there is no crime.
Maalouf is not the first judge to question the interpretation of Article 534.
Ten years ago, in 2007, Judge Mounir Suleiman called a halt to a criminal investigation of two men arrested under the law. He disputed that homosexuality was “contrary to the rules of nature” and noted that what was seen as “unnatural” reflected the social mores of the time.