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Homosexuality in Lebanon: freedom to be

BEIRUT | - May 17, 2012, 10h33
Par Louise Wernvik
A protest in Beirut in 2009 after two homosexual men were publicly beaten by security forces members. - Photo: Greg Demarque
May 17 is the international day against homophobia. In Lebanon, this rallying event is held as homophobia is a very topical issue, with homosexuality still considered as a crime in the Lebanese law, and people openly expressing their rejection of any different sexual orientation.
A few days ago an opinion piece was published in the AUB newspaper that expressed the disgust of a student when he saw an homosexual couple holding hands in the streets of Hamra. The student stated: “The other day, I saw a couple holding hands along Hamra Street. Normally I would never look twice, but something was not right. They both had short hair, facial hair, and rough voices. The sight was disturbing. Call me sexist, call me whatever you like, I couldn’t get that image out of my head for the whole day. I couldn’t believe what I saw.”

To Simon, a social Worker for Helem, an association that protects the Lebanon's LGBTIQ community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning), this man’s opinion reflects a portion of how Lebanese society thinks. This way of thinking is supported by a law, the article 534 which prohibits having sexual relations that are "contradicting the laws of nature", which is punishable by up to one year in prison.

Another story that might reflect Lebanese society is this one taken from:

"When I was 19, my father pulled a gun in my face. I could see in his eyes, back then, that he could very well pull the trigger and end this long struggle between the two of us: Me: the gay son who was kicked out of the house at the age of 14 and now lives on his own with *gasp* a boyfriend. Him: Muslim man; naturally homophobic. I couldn’t see determination in his eyes, though, what I saw was fear; he was more scared than angry, he seemed like he was the one facing the gun, not me."

This example of religion affecting life is also seen in the  letter published in AUB's newspaper which states: Homosexuality has always been a controversial subject in the world, not just Lebanon. In the United States some states have legalized homosexual marriage while others have outlawed the act. Almost every holy religion has condemned it. Islam condemns it to a point where the culprits are to be stoned to death. The Bible states “if a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

When asked, Helem's social worker Simon answered that he doesn’t think religion is the cause of all this, just the selective use of it, by homophobes using it to argue their claims.

The numerous evidences of ignorance reflected in the letter published in AUB's newspaper are certainly favored by the fact, according to Simon, that the subject is still taboo, and by "the universities'  backward thinking. The lack of understanding by the professors on such subjects, leads to unwillingness to educate students on Sexuality, and tolerance."

There was a severe rebuttal to the published opinion by a number of Lebanese bloggers; here is the one from Gino’s blog, in which he superbly counters the original opinion piece with his personal thought out opinions.

Another good rebuttal is from Hummus for thought .

And finally here is a link that gets all rebuttals together if you whish to read them, there are quite a few.

If you dig long enough on the Internet, you will find that the LGBTIQ community is a big one in Lebanon, and a lot of them are to live in fear of prosecution, for their sexual orientation, or are being bigoted by well, bigots, and that is if they aren’t next to disowned by their parents.

There is however a shining light, a story of a judge ruling against article 534, it happened in Batroon (North Lebanon) and showed the advancements achieved by Helem and other LGBTIQ protective associations.
#Homosexuality, #Homophobia
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