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Lebanese court throws out case against transgender woman accused of ‘unnatural sex’

A Lebanese judge has found that a transgender woman’s relationship with a man does not constitute ‘unnatural sexual intercourse’ in a further blow to the criminalization of LGBTI people in the majority Muslim nation
Matn district
Photo by Surreallogic

A criminal prosecution against a transgender Lebanese woman in the town of Jdeideh has been thrown out by a judge who found the woman had not broken any law.

The case occurred in January in the district of Matn but was only made public Tuesday in the latest edition of Lebanese legal journal The Legal Agenda.

The woman on trial had been born with an intersex condition and was assigned a male identity at birth but she grew up feeling that she was female and underwent gender reassignment surgery in the 1990s.

However her identity papers still list her as male, and Lebanese prosecutors believed that meant she was in breach of Article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code which criminalizes ‘unnatural sexual intercourse' and has traditionally been used to criminalize same-sex relationships.

Judge Naji al-Dahdah threw out the case on 28 January, ruling that her relationship with a man breached no law in Lebanon.

Al-Dahdah’s ruling cited a December 2009 ruling by Judge Mounir Suleiman that consensual homosexual relations were not against nature and could therefore not be prosecuted under Article 534.

Suleiman found in 2009 that, ‘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 behaviors goes against nature, even if it is criminal behavior, because it is nature’s ruling.’

The ruling was praised by Lebanese LGBTI rights group Helem.

‘It’s a big step; it shows we’re moving in the right direction,’ Helem co-founder Georges Azzi told Lebanon’s English language The Daily Star.

‘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.’

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