Rare LGBT protest held in Lebanon

A rare protest, demanding a repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality as “against nature”, has taken place in Lebanon.

Around 50 activists gathered outside the Hbeish Gendarmerie in Beirut, a place where morality police often take suspects, in the first protest of its kind for four years.

As well as calls to decriminalise homosexuality, the group also wanted four trans women released.

The event was organised by the Helem association, a prominent LGBT rights group based in the country, which handed out placards that read, “homosexuality is not a disease” and “sex is not illegal – your law is archaic”.

Helem chief Genwa Samhat told AFP that most people were detained under a 94-year-old law.

“Most people arrested under this law aren’t detained in the act but in the street because of their appearance,” she said.

Although Lebanon is more tolerant than other Arab states, being LGBT is still regularly mocked on television and police often perform raids on nightclubs they suspect are frequented by gay men.

The last LGBT protest to be held in the country was in 2012, when a number of people demonstrated outside a court to demand the end to the anal ‘test’, a procedure that involves ‘proving’ someone has had anal sex. The Ministry of Justice has since asked police to stop use of the practice, but they still continue.

Ms Samhat added that LGBT people in Lebanon are still treated terribly.

She said: “Arrested people are still screened for AIDS, while this should be voluntary. There is a preconceived idea that all homosexuals have AIDS.

“People also continue to be sacked if their boss finds out they’re gay. They’re made to say they quit voluntarily for fear of being denounced.”

In January, Lebanon recognised a trans man for the first time by allowing him to have his gender changed on public records.