Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
  • Criminalises the gender identity/expression of trans people
Penal Code 1943, Article 534 Sexual Intercourse Against Nature

Article 534 prohibits “sexual intercourse against nature” with a penalty of up to one year imprisonment. This provision has been applied to intercourse between men and between women.1

Penal Code 1943, Article 521 Disguising as a Woman

Article 521 criminalises gender expression by making it an offence for a man to “disguise himself as a woman”. The penalty for this offence is up to six years imprisonment.2

Enforcement

2017

The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Lebanon stated that the law was occasionally enforced during the year.

2013

The US Department of State Human Rights Report indicated that enforcement is rare, with a Lebanese NGO reporting fewer than ten criminal prosecutions in 2010.

Statements by Public Figures

2018

In the May elections, nearly 100 electoral candidates publicly called for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

In March, the right-wing Christian Democratic Kataeb party announced their plans to remove the current law criminalising same-sex acts as a major part of their social agenda live on television. It was included in the party’s 131 point plan saying they wished to “abrogat[e] all legal provisions that criminalize homosexuality” should the party gain a majority after national elections.

2014

In March, it was reported that a judge had dismissed a claim concerning a transgender woman accused of having same-sex sexual relations with a man. The case is one in a number of positive court judgments on consensual same-sex intimacy in Lebanon. For instance, in 2009, a decision by Judge Mounir Suleiman stated that consensual sexual intimacy cannot be considered unnatural: “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 behaviours goes against nature, even if it is criminal behaviour, because it is nature’s ruling”. Whilst these decisions are welcomed, Lebanon is a civil law system without a strict system of precedent. Therefore there can be negative judgments while the criminalising legislation endures.

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 behaviours goes against nature.

Judge Mounir Suleiman

As the Co-founder of Helem, a Lebanese LGBT group commented:The more we have decisions like this the more Article 534 becomes irrelevant… Any legal change takes a lot of time but at least this article might stop being used to persecute gay and transgender people in Lebanon.”

2013

In August, Dr. Sharaf, head of the Lebanese Doctor’s syndicate, called for an end to the intrusive act of anal examinations which he said could not be used to identify consensual anal sex and are regarded as a form of torture. Justice Minister, Shakib Qortbawi, stated that he had written to the Director of Public Prosecutions calling for an end to these procedures but his advice had been ignored. A subsequent directive by the public prosecutor stated that whilst anal examinations could only be carried out with the “consent of the accused”, they would “constitute proof of the crime”, if no consent was given.

In July, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society released a statement stating that homosexuality cannot be considered a mental illness: “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.”

Persecution and Discrimination

2018

In October, Lebanese General Security officers tried to end NEDWA, an LGBT conference. Police disrupted the third day of the conference and allegedly took details of all its participants, which included those from countries with repressive laws, including Egypt and Iraq.

In May, the authorities cancelled events within the program launched to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), and briefly arrested Beirut Pride Week’s organiser Hadi Damien. He was subsequently interrogated for allegedly “encouraging debauchery and offending public decency”. Damien was released after the authorities asked him to sign a pledge calling off the rest of the festival’s events in exchange for his release.

2017

The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Lebanon stated that “official and societal discrimination against LGBTI persons persisted.” There is a lack of reporting of incidents due to fear of additional discrimination. Observers received reports from LGBT refugees of abuse by gangs, which were not reported to the authorities.

In May, the LGBT community of Beirut hosted their first pride celebration. Despite threats of violence, multiple events were held in Beirut’s cultural centers, bars, offices and outdoor venues. These events included exhibitions, talks, concerts, parties, performances and screenings. In a country where homosexual acts remain illegal, some 4,000 people attended.

2014

A September report suggested that police in Lebanon tracked gay men through social media. Police in Beruit have examined conversations documented on WhatsApp on the phones of men recently detained and have been ringing and instructing individuals to attend the police station for questioning. Local LGBT group Helem has instructed LGBT persons in the country not to accept any phone calls from unknown numbers.

In August, local NGOs in Beirut condemned the arrest of 27 men over allegations concerning their sexual orientation. According to reports, the raid came following an accusation that the men were having “sexual encounters” with other men. Whilst the men will not, reportedly, be charged under Article 534 which prohibits sexual relations against the order of nature, the men could be charged with public indecency. Sources suggest that this is just one in a number of raids carried out by police in the last month.

Legislative News

2018

In October, a Lebanese delegation headed by Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, voted against an international bill that seeks equality for the LGBT community. The proposed bill, entitled “the role of Parliaments in ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and ensuring respect for the human rights of LGBT persons”, saw 636 votes against, 499 in favour, and 130 abstentions. The votes were held at the 139th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva, and ultimately led to the failure of the draft resolution.

In July, a district court of appeal in Lebanon issued a groundbreaking ruling that consensual sex between people of the same sex is not unlawful. The ruling followed similar judgments from lower courts that had declined to convict gay and transgender people of “sexual intercourse contrary to nature” in four separate rulings between 2007 and 2017. It is the first such ruling from an appeals court and moves Lebanon further toward decriminalising homosexual conduct.

2016

During its second UPR cycle, Lebanon noted all the recommendations that it received concerning the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex activities and the need to protect and prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals.

2011

In its first UPR cycle, the country rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex conduct between adults.

Footnotes
1. Penal Code 1943, Article 534 Sexual Intercourse Against Nature

“Any sexual intercourse against nature is punished with up to one year of imprisonment.” Full text.

See Human Dignity Trust, Breaking the Silence (2016), p.14 on the application of Article 534 to intercourse between men and between women.

2. Penal Code 1943, Article 521 Disguising as a Woman

“Any man who disguises himself as a woman and enters a place specifically for women only or a place in which anyone aside from women are prohibited from entering may be jailed for no more than 6 months.” Full text.

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