LGBT rights in Lebanon

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

LGBT rights in Lebanon
StatusDe jure ambiguous[note 1]
PenaltyUp to one year of imprisonment, rarely enforced.[2][note 1]
Gender identityYes, sex reassignment surgery is allowed
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions
AdoptionNo[note 2]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons living in Lebanon may face difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT residents, though they are considerably more free than in other parts of the Arab world.[3] Various courts have ruled that Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which prohibits having sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature", should not be used to arrest LGBT people.[4][5][6][7] Nonetheless, the law is still being used to harass and persecute LGBT people through occasional police arrests.[8]

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed that "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[9] Pew research polls in 2020 indicate an even greater heteronormativity among the Lebanese population, with 85% rejecting homosexuality and only 13% indicating an acceptance of homosexuality.[10]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity

Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits having sexual relations that are "contradicting the laws of nature",[11] which is punishable by up to a year in prison. As a practical matter, enforcement of the law had been varied and often occurred through occasional police arrests. In 2002, the police broke into a woman's house after her mother claimed that her daughter had stolen some money and jewellery. Upon entering the house, the police found the woman having sexual relations with another woman and charged them both with the crime of sodomy.[12]

In 2007, Judge Mounir Suleiman called a halt to a criminal investigation of two men arrested under Article 534. 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.[13]

On 11 December 2009, the Lebanon-based LGBT organization Helem launched a report that would target the legal situation of homosexuals in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2011, a Lebanese judge in Batroun ruled against the use of Article 534 to prosecute homosexuals.[14]

In 2012, then Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi weighed in on the use of anal examinations on men accused of same-sex conduct, issuing a statement calling for an end to this practice.[13]

In April 2013, the Mayor of Dekwaneh, a suburb north of Beirut, ordered security forces to raid and shut down a gay-friendly nightclub. Several club-goers were arrested and forced to undress in the municipal headquarters, where they were then photographed naked. This operation was condemned by numerous gay rights activists.[15] Lebanon's Interior Minister of the Interim Government, Marwan Charbel, supported the Mayor of Dekwaneh saying, "Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality, and according to Lebanese law it is a criminal offense."[16]

On 11 July 2013, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) released a statement saying that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated, they said: "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". Also, the LPS stated that conversion therapy, seeking to "convert" gays and bisexuals into straights has no scientific background and asked health professionals to "rely only on science" when giving opinion and treatment in this matter. This made Lebanon the first Arab country to declassify homosexuality as a "disease".[17]

From 29 November to 1 December 2013, an independent group organized TransFocus, "an independent film festival that revolves around trans* and gender-variant topics, questions, persons, and politics in Lebanon".[18] The three-day event was non-profit, funded via online crowdsourcing, and was carried out by a "bunch of friends and local organizers" aimed to be "outside any institution, organization or collective; international or local."[18] The event featured film screenings, a focused discussion panel, a resource collection project, and an exhibition.[18] This marked the first Lebanese public film festival focusing on trans voices and topics.[18]

On 28 January 2014, a court in the municipality of Jdeideh ruled out a case against a transgender woman accused of having an "unnatural" sexual relationship with a man.[13][19][20]

In January 2017, a Lebanese judge challenged the legal basis of the arrest of men for same-sex conduct. 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", the judge wrote in his decision.[13][21]

Despite these rulings, Article 534 of the Penal Code still stands. Georges Azzi, executive director of the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, told the Washington Blade in 2017: "Homosexuality is technically illegal in Lebanon, however the new generation of judges are less likely to apply the law and the police forces will not reinforce it." In August 2014, the Internal Security Forces Morals Protection Bureau conducted a raid on a Turkish bathhouse in Beirut, resulting in the arrest of 27 Syrians. According to a report co-produced with Helem, the stated reason for the raid was the suspected "presence of homosexual individuals".[8] In May 2016, LGBT activists staged a sit-in, demanding Article 534 be repealed.[22]

In March 2018, the Kataeb Party, a minor Christian party, expressed support for the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the repeal of Article 534. Local LGBT activists welcomed the support, stating that this was the first time a political party in Parliament had endorsed their cause.[23]

In July 2018, the Penal Appeal Court of Mount Lebanon upheld a lower court ruling which acquitted nine people prosecuted over being gay. The lower court held that homosexuality was "a practice of their fundamental rights". The Appeal Court agreed and found that consensual sex between same-sex partners cannot be considered "unnatural" so long as it does not violate morality and ethics, such as "when it is seen or heard by others, or performed in a public place, or involving a minor who must be protected." Activists welcomed the ruling and called on the Government to repeal Article 534.[24][25] This ruling was the fifth of its kind in Lebanon, and the first from such a high-level court.

In 2019, Military Court Judge Peter Germanos acquitted four military personnel accused of "sodomy" in a landmark ruling, clearing the group of charges of committing sexual acts "contrary to nature" and declaring that sodomy is "not punishable by law".[26]

Gender identity and expression

In January 2016, the Court of Appeals of Beirut confirmed the right of a transgender man to change his official papers, granting him access to necessary treatment and privacy.[27][28][29] Transgender people are required to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to change their legal gender.[30]

Blood donation

Lebanese men who have had sexual contact with another man, even once, are banned from donating blood.[31]

LGBT social movements

Members of the LGBT Lebanese community began to publicly campaign for LGBT rights in 2002, with the creation of a political association called Hurriyyat Khassa ("Private Liberties" in English). The group focused its efforts on reforming Article 534 of the Criminal Code so that private sex acts between consenting adults would no longer be a crime. Another LGBT rights organization in Lebanon is called Helem (Arabic: حلم, meaning "Dream" in Arabic). These organizations have staged public demonstrations, lectures and fundraisers for HIV/AIDS education.

In 2006, Helem celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia in Monroe Hotel Downtown in Beirut.[32][33]

In August 2007, a lesbian NGO named Meem was founded to support lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning women in Lebanon. The group offers community support, psychological counselling, an activity center, legal support, social events, and the opportunity to work on social change.[34] Meem also hosts a Womyn House that serves as an activity and resource center in Beirut.

The inaugural Beirut Pride was planned for 21 May 2017,[35] but LGBT activists were forced to hold a private event due to fear of violence from police and radical Islamists.[36] In 2018, the organizer of Beirut Pride, Hadi Damien, was arrested. The Prosecutor of Beirut suspended all the scheduled events, and initiated criminal proceedings against Hadi for organizing events that "incite to debauchery".[37]

Lebanese communities in the Diaspora (Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia) have also established visibility and presence through Helem LGBT affiliates in various cities with big Lebanese presence including Montreal (where Helem has obtained legal registration)[38] and Paris.[39]


For a while, only the Kataeb Party endorsed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. None of the major or minor political parties or factions publicly endorsed any of the goals of the gay rights organizations. In 2018, Kollouna Watani, which ran 66 candidates in the election endorsed the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Dozens of other candidates also called for decriminalization.[40][41]

On 1 September 2020, Martine Najem Kteily, the vice president for management in the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) said in an interview that the major christian party endorses the abolishment of the Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code and supports the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Freedom of speech and expression

While there were initial reports of government censorship of LGBT themes, there has been a degree of liberalization in recent years.

On 29 May 2006, Al Arabiya ran a piece in which Beirut Municipality Council member Saad-Eddine Wazzan publicly called on Prime Minister Fouad Sanyoura and Minister of Interior Ahmad Fatfat to shut down Helem.[42] On 16 June 2006, sermons in the mosques of Beirut condemned homosexuality and pointed to the fact that Beirut has a licensed LGBT organization called Helem. The sermons also called on the Government to provide explanations. The following day, Ahmed Fatfat denied charges by Islamist clerics that the Government had approved a gay rights group.[43] In 2017, LGBT activists organised Lebanon's first pride parade, named Beirut Pride, but were forced to cancel due to terrorist threats from Islamic radicals. The 2018 event was banned after the main organiser was arrested by police officials. The move was condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said: "The crackdown violates freedom of assembly and association and is a step backward in a country that has made progress toward respecting the rights of LGBT people."[44]

LGBT publications

Lebanon is the first Arab country with its own gay periodical, entitled Barra ("Out" in Arabic). A trial issue was published in March 2005 with two full issues that followed in summer 2005 and spring 2006.[45]

A Lebanese LGBT group, Helem, also has its own website including a regular online newsletter publication.

In 2009, "Bareed Mista3jil" was published by the Lebanese lesbian Feminist Collective (FC) organization in Beirut. The organization is also called Nasawiya and is a group of activists who are involved in gender justice work. Available in both English and Arabic versions, the book is a collection of 41 true and personal stories from lesbians, bisexuals, queer and questioning women and transgender persons from all over Lebanon.[46] The book was launched in Masrah Al Madina, Beirut by the Feminist Collective and IndyAct.

Media campaigns

In May 2015, Proud Lebanon, a Lebanese non-profit organization, marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) by launching a media campaign. The campaign consisted of an awareness ad featuring several prominent Lebanese artists and celebrities calling on the Lebanese Government to provide equal rights to all citizens and residents regardless of sexual orientation, nationality, etc. The ad makes particular emphasis on the rights of the LGBT community to live in a society free of homophobia, since LGBT individuals may still face wide prejudice, coming mainly from conservatives or clerics.[citation needed]

Public opinion

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2007 showed that 79% of Lebanese believed that "homosexuality should be rejected by society", as opposed to 18% who believed "homosexuality should be accepted by society".[9] Younger people were more likely to support acceptance, with 27% in favor, than those between 30 and 49 (17%) and those over 50 (10%).[47]

In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. Lebanon was ranked 99th with a GHI score of 33.[48]

According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Arab Barometer, 8% of respondents considered honor killings acceptable, compared to 6% who accepted homosexuality.[49] Another 2019 survey found that 32% of Lebanese between 15 and 80 years had severe homophobic attitudes, with more tolerance correlated with knowing someone gay, university education, high monthly income, and higher problem-focused engagement.[50]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity No The law banning sexual acts that are "against nature" is in place still with up to a year in prison. However it is not well enforced and is not always prosecuted.[note 1]
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Hate crime laws covering both sexual orientation and gender identity No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Same-sex marriages No
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No[note 2]
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people allowed to serve in the military No
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2016)[27]
Third gender option No
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes (Since 2013)[17]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No
Gay criminal records expunged No

Notable Lebanese LGBT people

High-profile Lebanese singer Mika came out as gay in 2012.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Some courts have ruled that LGBT people shouldn't be arrested under Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which prohibits sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature", but this law is still used to persecute LGBT people and hasn't been completely struck down yet.[1]
  2. ^ a b Adoption is very difficult for much of the population of Lebanon, not only same-sex couples.


  1. ^ "Appeals court in Lebanon rules consensual same-sex relations are not unlawful". Metro Weekly. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Lebanon | Human Dignity Trust". Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  3. ^ "Gay in Lebanon: LGBTQ+ between Religion, Society & Optimism". Gay Travel Blog - Couple of Men. 2 October 2019. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  4. ^ Laws of nature, Beirut: Economist, 14 May 2014, retrieved 4 June 2014
  5. ^ Does a new ruling offer fresh hope for LGBT rights in Lebanon? BBC News
  6. ^[bare URL PDF]
  7. ^ Is Lebanon on the path to decriminalizing homosexuality?
  8. ^ a b The fight goes on for Lebanon's LGBT community
  9. ^ a b The Pew Global Project Attitudes (PDF), Washington, D.C.: PewResearchCenter, 4 October 2007, archived from the original (PDF) on 14 February 2010, retrieved 3 September 2011
  10. ^ The Global Divide on Homosexuality Persists, 6 September 2020
  11. ^ Chaer, Nisrine (2020). "Sensing Queer Activism in Beirut Protest Soundscapes as Political Dissent". In Charrad, M.; Stephan, Rita (eds.). Women rising : in and beyond the Arab Spring. New York. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-4798-5696-1. OCLC 1153084016.
  12. ^ "Sodomy reporting on Lebanese media coverage on arrest of two lesbians". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  13. ^ a b c d Lebanon court: Gay sex is natural; anti-gay law weakens Erasing 76 Crimes
  14. ^ "Lebanese Judge Rules Against the Use of Article 534 To Prosecute Homosexuals". Bekhsoos. 18 January 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Lebanese mayor cracks down on homosexuality in his town". Al Akhbar (Lebanon). 24 April 2013. Archived from the original on 29 August 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Lebanon: Homosexuals no longer 'perverts,' but still target", Ynetnews, reported by Roi Kais, 16 May 2013
  17. ^ a b Lebanon Says: Being Gay Is Not a Disease and Needs No Treatment
  18. ^ a b c d "Transfocus Film Festival: Screenings & Workshops". Daleel Madani. 29 November 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Lebanese court throws out case against transgender woman accused of 'unnatural sex'. Gay Star News
  20. ^ "Lebanon: Being Gay Is Not a Crime Nor Against Nature". The Huffington Post
  21. ^ Lebanon Edges Closer to Decriminalizing Same-sex Conduct Human Rights Watch
  22. ^ In rare Lebanon sit-in, LBGT activists protest against article 534
  23. ^ Lebanese politicians call for decriminalisation of gay sex, PinkNews, 14 March 2018
  24. ^ Activists hail Lebanon ruling that could protect gay rights, The Times of Israel, 19 July 2018
  25. ^ Appeals court in Lebanon rules consensual same-sex relations are not unlawful
  26. ^ "Lebanon court 'acquits military personnel' in sodomy case". Al Jazeera. 30 March 2019. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  27. ^ a b Transgender ruling in Lebanon an 'empowering' moment
  28. ^ (in Arabic) تغيير الجنس في حكم قضائي جديد: احترام حق الفرد في تغيير حاله
  29. ^ Lebanese judge grants trans man right to change gender
  30. ^ Lebanon allows trans man to legally change his gender Pink News
  31. ^ "Criteria for blood donor selection" (PDF). Lebanese Committee of Blood Transfusion. p. 15. Retrieved 9 December 2020. Male donors: Sexual contact with another male, even once
  32. ^ ندى عبد الصمد (19 May 2006). "BBC report in Arabic about Lebanese gays". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  33. ^ Ghattas, Kim (26 May 2006). "BBC report by Kim Ghattas: Landmark meeting for gay Lebanese". BBC News. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  34. ^ "Meem Website". Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  35. ^ Qiblawi, Tamara (16 May 2017). "Beirut gay pride event a first for Lebanon". CNN. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  36. ^ "Gay Lebanese scrap pride event because of threats". France 24. 21 May 2017. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
  37. ^ Homsi, Nada; Hubbard, Ben (16 May 2018). "Lebanon Is Known as Gay Friendly. But Pride Week Was Shut Down". The New York Times. For members of Lebanon’s gay community, Beirut Pride week was intended as a way to celebrate diversity, fight discrimination and push for more rights and recognition. But that dream came crashing down this week when the Lebanese authorities detained the celebration’s organizer, releasing him only after he promised to cancel the remaining events.
  38. ^ "Helem Montreal website". Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  39. ^ "Helem Paris page on Helem website". Archived from the original on 3 March 2011. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  40. ^ Qiblawi, Tamara (4 May 2018). "Gay rights come to the fore as Lebanon prepares to vote". CNN. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  41. ^ Nearly 100 Lebanese politicians openly support LGBTQ rights
  42. ^ Al Arabiya report on protests against gay organizations in Lebanon Archived January 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ "report on Minister Fatfat's reaction". Lebanon: The Daily Star. 19 June 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  44. ^ Lebanon: Police Shutter Pride Events, Human Rights Watch, 18 May 2018
  45. ^ Barra magazine page on Helem website Archived October 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ "Bareed Mista3jil Official book website". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  47. ^ The Global Divide on Homosexuality
  48. ^ "GAY HAPPINESS MONITOR" (PDF). Retrieved 29 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. ^ "Are Arabs turning their backs on religion?". 24 June 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  50. ^ Obeid, Sahar; Haddad, Chadia; Salame, Wael; Kheir, Nelly; Hallit, Souheil (24 January 2019). "Correlates of Homophobic Attitudes in Lebanon: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study". Journal of Homosexuality. 67 (6): 844–862. doi:10.1080/00918369.2018.1557954. ISSN 1540-3602. PMID 30676932. S2CID 59251721.
  51. ^ Lisa Suhair Majaj and Amal Amireh, Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. McFarland & Company, 2001. ISBN 0786410728.
  52. ^ "Rabih Alameddine: 'I think we lose something once we get accepted'". Guardian. 9 October 2016.
  53. ^ Teeman, Tim (15 May 2018). "Inside Georges Azzi's Brave Fight for LGBT Rights in the Middle East". The Daily Beast.
  54. ^ "Beirut's fearless drag queens defy Middle Eastern conservatism". Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  55. ^ Malkin, Marc (24 November 2020). "'Uncle Frank' Star Peter Macdissi Talks Working With Partner Alan Ball on the Indie Gay Drama". Variety. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  56. ^ "Mika confirms sexuality: 'I'm gay'". Digital Spy. 6 August 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  57. ^ "ON HAMED SINNO". My.Kali. 2 December 2012.
  58. ^ "Nurse Jackie Star Haaz Sleiman Comes Out As Gay In New Facebook Video". Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2017.

External links