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Lebanon on course to legalize homosexuality

Psychologists agree to be expert witnesses in court to say homosexuality is natural, and so laws against ‘unnatural’ sex acts do not apply
Experts speaking at the Helem and LebMASH conference on why homosexuality is natural.

Lebanon is closer to making gay sex legal after psychiatrists and psychologists in the country stated homosexuality was ‘natural’, GSN can reveal.

The statements are a huge breakthrough because law 534, used to prosecute gay sex, is actually a law against ‘unnatural’ sex acts.

And now psychologists and psychiatrists have stated they would be prepared to be expert witnesses in court and tell judges homosexuality is ‘natural’.

Helem, the leading LGBTQ protection organization in Lebanon, and LebMASH (the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health) cooperated with the LPS (Lebanese Society of Psychiatry) and LPA (the Lebanese Psychology Association) to secure the breakthrough statements.

Bertho Makso, an activist and the owner of Lebtour, the LGBT gay guide in Lebanon, was among the campaigners who helped.

He told GSN: ‘Because of 534 – the penal law that is used against any unnatural sex – these statements show to the world that being gay is not unnatural so 534 can't be implemented in this case.’

The psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ statements were publicized at an event yesterday (28 August).

Makso said: ‘The famous lawyer Nizar Saghiyeh asked the speakers if a judge would ask you to give your testimony if homosexuality is natural or unnatural would you accept and what would you say?

‘They said their answer would be based on each case – and if it’s regarding homosexuality itself, we will be clear that it’s natural.’

The next step is to work to change 534, to formally decriminalize homosexuality. But that may take time with political parties boycotting each other over the situation in Syria.

Makso told us: ‘Our plan is to change 534. We are reaching out to some of the politicians trying to work on changing this law.

‘I hope we can soon, because the Lebanese are becoming more mature when it comes to human rights.

‘In parallel we are cooperating with the police and investigators and some other officials trying to minimize the use of 534.

‘At the same time, in case there are cases, our dedicated lawyers will be cooperating to defend them if the people arrested accept. But lately very, very few cases have been reported which means, our work is leading somewhere.’

Public attitudes have modernized in Lebanon, through the work of Helem and other activists. Change has also been helped by positive celebrity role models who may not be openly gay but are generally known to be so.

But the media is still homophobic. The psychologists' new statement may help here too.

Makso explained: ‘Always in the media when they talk about homosexuality you have two fronts invited – the religious people and a shrink. Now with gaining this with the medical field, we believe we won half of the war.’

And it can also help fight people offering gay ‘cure’ therapies, still common in Lebanon.

The experts at the Helem and LebMASH event reflected World Health Organization guidance that ‘treating’ homosexuality won’t work and can be dangerous.

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