For the first time, Lebanon politicians call to decriminalize gay sex

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Young Lebanese LGBTI people come out to fight for equality

Lebanon politicians have called for the Middle Eastern country to decriminalize gay sex.

The Kataeb party, a Christian Democratic right-wing party, spoke about their plans to remove the law that makes homosexuality a crime live on television.

This marks the first time a mainstream political party has spoken out on LGBTI rights in Lebanon.

Lebanon politicians call to decriminalize gay sex

In an announcement of their political platform on Sunday (11 March), decriminalization of homosexuality was a central part of Kataeb’s social agenda.

It was included as part of a 131-point mission to complete if they gained a majority at the 6 May elections.,

‘This is big,’ Georges Azzi, the executive director of Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, told Gay Star News.

‘We have been pushing for parties to publicly support the LGBTI community for a long time.

‘We have had closed door promises. But this is the first time politicians have publicly supported us.’

Still technically illegal

Hamed Sinno gay frontman of Lebanese band Mashrou Leila

Lebanon criminalizes homosexuality with up to a year in prison. However, Penal Code’s Article 534 which prohibits ‘unnatural’ sex has not been used to jail gay people for a long time.

However, it is still used by police officers to arrest and intimidate the LGBTI community.

‘If it’s not ordered from the government to arrest people based on sexuality, police still have the right to arrest people,’ Azzi said.

‘It’s the law. And the police can use it however they like it.

‘We need the highest judiciary to send a message to not use the Penal Code to attack the LGBTI community.’

There are two possibilities for decriminalization in Lebanon. One is if the Kataeb party is elected this year, and the other is through the legal system.

‘Homosexuality is a personal choice, and not a punishable offense’

Judge Rabih Maalouf, in January last year, declared ‘homosexuality is a personal choice, and not a punishable offense’.

The Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality is hoping the courts will agree the law is unconstitutional.

But Azzi hopes political pressure will speed up the process.

‘If a progressive party and independent candidates that support decriminalization get a majority in parliament, we could see it happen very quickly,’ he said.

‘The police need to see there’s a political push.’

‘We’re going in the right direction’

In 2015, an IPSOS survey found the majority of Lebanon considers homosexuality to be immoral and unnatural. Parents said they would not support their son or daughter if they came out as gay, bi or transgender.

However, 65% said they do not believe it should be punishable by jail time.

‘We’re going in the right direction,’ Azzi added. ‘We’re hopeful something positive will happen. We need politicians to say this law is not relevant to the LGBTI community or remove it completely.

‘This election is where we have a chance. We’re very hopeful.’

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