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Lebanese politicians call for decriminalisation of gay sex

Meka Beresford March 14, 2018

The ruling is "much more than symbolic"

Politicians in Lebanon have called for the government to decriminalise same-sex intercourse.

Right-wing Christian Democrat party, the Kataeb party, announced plans to scrap the law on television over the weekend.

Discussing a 131-step plan that the party will put in place if they win the May 6 elections, officials from the party stressed that it was a crucial part of their social agenda to scrap the current criminalising laws.

Currently, article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code prohibits sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”.

The law is technically punishable with jail time of up to a year.

However, numerous courts in the country have ruled that the article should not be used to arrest people for engaging in same-sex sex.

This means that it is de facto legal.

(Getty)

Related: Rare LGBT protest held in Lebanon

However, police in the country are still believed to use the law to persecute the community.

Kataeb is one of the first mainstream parties in government to speak about the decriminalisation.

Activists have said that if article 534 is scrapped, it will bring dramatic improvement to LGBTQ equality in the middle eastern country.

The executive director of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, Georges Azzi, told GSN that the promise was “big”.

“We have been pushing for parties to publicly support the LGBTI community for a long time.

(Getty)

Related: Lebanon allows trans man to legally change his gender

“We have had closed door promises but this is the first time politicians have publicly supported us,” Azzi said.

The activist went on to explain that because police can use the law “however they like” they will continue to arrest.

“We need the highest judiciary to send a message to not use the Penal Code to attack the LGBTI community,” they added.

Last year in January, a judge conceded that homosexuality should not be illegal in a landmark case.

Judge Rabih Maalouf declared that “homosexuality is a personal choice and not a punishable offence” in the ruling which referenced Article 183.

The article states that “An act undertaken in exercise of a right without abuse shall not be regarded as an offence.”

(Getty)

Related: Islamist threats fail to halt Arab world’s first Pride week

The ruling contradicts that homosexuality is illegal under Article 534 which prohibits sexual relations that “contradict the laws of nature”.

Although Lebanon is more tolerant than other Arab states, being LGBT is still regularly mocked on television and police often perform raids on nightclubs they suspect are frequented by gay men.

The last LGBT protest to be held in the country was in 2012 when a number of people demonstrated outside a court to demand the end to the anal ‘test’, a procedure that involves ‘proving’ someone has had anal sex.

The Ministry of Justice has since asked the police to stop the practice, but it’s believed they continue to use it.

More: decriminalisation, Law, Lebanon, Lebanon, LGBT, Middle East, same-sex sex

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