Lebanon has witnessed an increase in anti-LGBTIQ+ rhetoric from various sources, including politicians, government officials, parliamentarians, religious leaders, and media personalities. This rhetoric, along with calls for violence and threats of imprisonment, has created an atmosphere of fear and hostility towards the human rights of LGBTIQ+ individuals in Lebanon. The consequences of this rhetoric are reflected in increased discrimination, violence, physical and psychological attacks, arbitrary arrests, and threats faced by these individuals in our society.
We are deeply concerned about these recent developments as political and religious figures have taken their opposition to the LGBTIQ+ community from a social conversation in salons to the Lebanese parliament, using legal means as a new weapon to reject the significant progress made by Lebanon’s various unions, including the medical and psychological unions, in correcting misconceptions previously held towards LGBTIQ+ individuals.
On July 12, 2023, nine MPs from various parliamentary blocs proposed a law to repeal Article 534 of the Penal Code, which vaguely states that “any sexual intercourse contrary to nature is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year.” This article has been used in recent years to criminalize homosexuality in Lebanon, even though it does not explicitly mention it but was used to define and interpret this vague article.
It is important to note that this article was originally inspired by French law and was exclusively used to criminalize relationships with minors under the age of 12. However, it was cut and unclearly phrased and was later used to criminalize LGBTIQ+ individuals, which is unacceptable.
As an organization, Proud Lebanon saw the need to amend this article. After seeing political ground with one party adopting its cancellation in its electoral program in 2018, the organization began working diligently and secretly to amend the Penal Code. Since 2018, the organization has worked collaboratively with various political parties and politicians from different factions to draft a bill to amend the Penal Code in line with human rights and international conventions signed by Lebanon, including the repeal of this article.
After the last elections, we continued our work with various parliamentary blocs and parties in the current parliament, especially after finding a serious number of MPs and MPs who were committed to supporting or adopting the law by signing it. We are grateful to the MPs who supported us through preparation and signing of the law proposal, knowing that nine MPs and MPs have signed it. The law proposal was a collaborative effort that took into account all signatories’ concerns and aspirations, guaranteeing the dignity of targeted groups and respecting Lebanon’s international obligations.
At Proud Lebanon, we respect the reasons of the MPs who chose not to sign, and we understand the complexities of their supporters and voters and social preparedness regarding this issue. However, we reiterate that our demands are “non-criminalization” and not the importation of any foreign thought or aspirations that Lebanese society may not be ready to accept in our current times.
Therefore, this understanding was the basis of our discussions and agreements with the MPs from different parties.
After the recent hateful campaign, hate speech, calls for violence, and rejection, we urge MPs, the international community, and human rights organizations in Lebanon and abroad to:
– Encourage and work towards repealing laws that discriminate against individuals, especially Article 534 of the Penal Code in the Lebanese parliament.
– Launch awareness campaigns to combat discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ+ individuals.
– Ensure that LGBTIQ+ individuals have unobstructed access to justice and protection from all forms of violence as a natural and legitimate right for any human being.
In addition, we call on the international community to support the Lebanese state in enhancing protection for all citizens, especially LGBTIQ+ individuals, away from hate speech, rejection, and intimidation.
At Proud Lebanon, we remain committed to the issue of respecting human rights regardless of sexual orientation, which we consider a personal matter that should not be a subject of controversy or a sacrificial lamb for the political situation of others. We will continue to work tirelessly to promote human rights for all individuals in Lebanon and ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or affiliation, lives in a society that respects their dignity, rights, and freedoms.
Attached is a copy of the draft law developed by Proud Lebanon, a group of legislators, consultants, and advisors.