The fight to end the criminalization of homosexuality in Lebanon just got one of its biggest legal boosts.
Lebanon criminalizes homosexuality with up to a year in prison under Article 534 of the Penal Code. Article 534 bans ‘unnatural’ sex. Even though it has not been used to jail anyone recently, authorities use it to intimidate the LGBTI community.
The Court of Appeals’s decision is historic because it is the first time an appellate court has ruled on the matter. Four previous court hearings about the issue were all heard in criminal courts.
In its ruling the court said homosexual sex should not be criminalized unless it occurs in public or with a minor.
Judge Randa Khoury also ruled that Article 534 was outdated and did not reflect ‘social development’.
Although legalizing homosexuality is still a long way off, the latest court ruling is a positive step forward.
Politicians must act
Lebanon’s parliament must also make moves to scrap Article 534, according to LGBTI activists.
Before the May national elections, the Kataeb party became the first to actively campaign for the legalization of homosexuality. Other politicians also campaigned for gay rights for the first time in Lebanon’s history.
But the Kataeb party did not fare so well in the elections.
‘We need the highest judiciary to send a message to not use the Penal Code to attack the LGBTI community,’ Georges Azzi, the executive director of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, told Gay Star News in May.
‘If it’s not ordered from the government to arrest people based on sexuality, police still have the right to arrest people,’ Azzi said.
‘We need the highest judiciary to send a message to not use the Penal Code to attack the LGBTI community.’