A series of social media videos are encouraging people to vote for change in Lebanon.
Of all the countries in the Middle East, many regard Lebanon as more progressive in regards to LGBTI rights.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal under Penal Code 534. However, the code has rarely been enacted in the past ten years and LGBTI citizens are beginning to live more open lives.
An underground Beirut Pride festival, consisting of a series of arts-based events, took place last year and will return again this year next month (12-20 May). Last month, trans inclusive feminists in the country called for trans rights during an International Women’s Day March.
Now, some electoral candidates in the forthcoming 6 May elections are openly calling for the repeal of Penal Code 534.
Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality
The Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFEMENA) has launched a website listing all the Parliamentarian Candidates. Where known, it indicates if they support or oppose advancing LGBTI rights.
To coincide with the website, social media videos appeared yesterday. The first one, below, is aimed at Lebanon citizens living abroad. They will be able to remotely cast a vote in the elections for the first time.
Citizens of the country elect Parliamentarians, who then elect the President. The President assigns the Prime Minister, who forms a cabinet. The current President is Michel Aoun and the Prime Minister is Saad Hariri.
Following political unrest in the country in recent years, the May elections feature a number of new, younger candidates, some of whom are standing independently. Several are promoting civil rights, including women’s rights, civil marriage and LGBTI rights.
The videos have been welcomed by Beirut Pride.
‘We welcome all proper initiatives that allow us to engage a new discourse,’ spokesperon and founder Hadi Damien told GSN.
‘Beirut Pride has been at the forefront of the political lobbying since its inception last May 2017, and we worked with several candidates for them to be aware of the LGBTIQ+ reality in Lebanon. A couple of political parties promised to be the voice of the LGBT in parliament, and other factions explicitly spoke LGBT in their programme.’
One of the parties supporting a repeal is Kelna Beirut.
‘Kelna Beirut aims at protecting and implementing the Lebanese Constitution and establishing a Civic State, which ensures individual liberties and basic freedoms,’ campaign manager Karim El Mufti told GSN.
‘As such, the position of the campaign and its candidates within Kelna Beirut is to fight and undo any legislation and practices that would contradict the Lebanese Constitution and the freedoms it beholds, and article 534 of our Penal Code clearly stand in this category.’
In regard to the repeal of article 534 of the Penal Code, Hadi Damien says change is ‘crucial.’
‘Article 534 speaks about unnatural sexual intercourse. Even though it is used to address same-sex intercourse, it doesn’t directly refer to it … many intercourses could be placed under the umbrella of “unnatural sexual intercourse”.
‘Repealing the article all together would be a never-ending discussion that most probably would not yield the excepted outcome. Nevertheless, adding a sentence that explicitly excludes same sex intercourse from the penal application of this Article seems to be a possible idea to explore.
‘Addressing this article and neutralising its criminalisation of same sex intercourse is crucial. It is also important that while this article mentions “sexual intercourse”, it is also used to arrest individuals who “look LGBT”.’