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Schwul im Libanon: LGBTQ+ zwischen Religion, Gesellschaft & Aufbruch auf Couple of Men

Gay in Lebanon: “The problem is not only the law, but also society”

Lebanon has a reputation in the Middle East for being the most liberal of all countries when it comes to homosexuality, transgender and the LGBTQ + community in general. For example, in 2017, Lebanon was the first country in the Arab world where gay pride events (such as the Beirut Pride) took place. At least 4,000 people took part in it at the time. Already in the years before, various NGOs, such as Proud Lebanon and Helem, organized public LGBTQ + events.

But that does not necessarily mean that the situation for LGBTQ+ in Lebanon is easy. Both the law and conservative currents within society make it difficult for gay men. Couple of Men reporter Sarah was traveling alone as a single traveler in the Arab country and was able to get an idea of the situation of the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon. After Georgia and Russia, she is now analyzing the country on gay in Lebanon for Couple of Men.

written by Sarah Tekath
translated by Karl Krause

 
Schwul im Libanon: Regenbogenflagge für die LGBTQ+ Community

Being Gay in Lebanon: Rainbow flag for the LGBTQ+ Community

 

Beirut: Gay Party Metropolis in the Middle East

Whatever prejudices you know about against the Middle East, Lebanon does not fit into any of them. Two thirds of the country’s population are Muslims, and one third are Christians. In total, there are 18 religious currents. That means you can see shorts and short skirts as well as headscarves on the streets. In the capital Beirut everything mixes and here the motto seems to apply: live and let live. However, in the capital it always looks a bit different than in the rest of the country.

 

Homosexuality is not unnatural: Precedents in Court

In 1990, Lebanon became the first Arab state to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation that homosexuality should not be classified as a disease. Furthermore, there is no law in the country that explicitly lists homosexuality as illegal. However, Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code (from the time of the French Mandate) still prohibits ‘unnatural’ sexual relations. In addition to fines, the maximum penalty is one year in prison. However, prison sentences have become rare. Individual decisions by Lebanese courts in 2009, 2014 and 2017 even found in seven cases that homosexual intercourse was not unnatural and therefore not illegal.

 

Schwul im Libanon Schwulsein in Russland A Gay Kiss during our Gay Travels to Spain | Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2019 © Coupleofmen.com

Spartacus Gay Travel Index © Coupleofmen.com

Gay Travel Index 2019

Die jährlich aktualisierte Rangliste des Gay Travel Index für 2019 von Spartacus informiert Reisende über die Situation von Lesben, Schwulen, Bisexuellen und Transgender in 197 Ländern und Regionen verteilt auf die ganze Welt. Welche Länder sind schwulenfreundlich? Wo müssen LGBTQ+ Reisende besonders aufpassen?

 

In this way, precedents have been created that can be invoked by other courts, but they do not have to be. In particular, the 2017 verdict is considered a milestone because it refers to a criminal code article, namely Article 183, which states that no one can be convicted of exercising a right, as long as no one else is harmed. In other words, the right was established here to live out one’s own sexuality freely.

 

LGBTQ+ NGOs in Lebanon

Although there are several organizations working for the LGBT community in Beirut, as well as in the rest of Lebanon, there is hardly any cooperation due to competitive considerations. Makso founded the organization Proud Lebanon in 2013 with the aim of supporting refugees from Syria and Iraq in particular from the LGBT community. Meanwhile, the focus is particularly on those who can not afford to move to Liberal Beirut. For those, Proud Lebanon offers legal, medical and psychological help. For example, the organization produces videos against homophobia with well-known Lebanese personalities. In the first video there were 14 participants, in 2016 there were already 21.

 

 

 

It also offers anonymous HIV testing in tents on the street. Although HIV tests are also possible in the hospital, Dr. Ismael Maatouk, dermatologist and specialist in sexually transmitted diseases in Beirut, said that they were not anonymous. The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), of which Maatouk has been a member for a while, has set itself the task of developing a better understanding of psychological health in the context of sexual identity among Lebanese health professionals and is organizing, among others, the LGBT Health Week in Beirut.

 

Being Gay in Lebanon: Intolerance & Rejection remain

Although the 2017 Judgment is seen as an important step towards the abolition of Article 534, the attitude of the majority of the population towards LGBT remains conservative. Likewise, members of the LGBTQ+ community experience a strong stigma, such as a looming job loss in the event of a public coming out.

Since a conviction under article 534 for unnatural sex also remains in the police record for five years, this can lead to negative reactions in job interviews, but also in the simple attempt to obtain a driver’s license, knows Bertho Makso, founder of the LGBT NGO Proud Lebanon. It is also not possible to vote during this period, as civil rights will be revoked for this period until the entry is deleted.

 

Schwul im Libanon: Aufregendes Reiseland, man muss nur vorsichtig sein

Gay in Lebanon: Exciting travel destination, if you know and follow the rules

 

Many gay Lebanese refrain from coming out within their families because they risk being expelled from the family. For example, a gay brother can negatively affect the future of the sisters. Strong traditional values, both among Christians and Muslims, continue to apply – both in Beirut and in the countryside. See also Wikipedia: Homosexuality in Lebanon >

 

Being Gay in Georgia

The current Spartacus Gay Travel Index of 2019 ranks Georgia number 95 in its ranking, with an overall rating of -2. In categories such as same-sex marriage, persecution, antidiscrimination laws or transgender rights, the country only scores in a single case with a positive rating.

Schwulsein in Russland Gay Pride Rainbow Group of people LGBTQ+ activists Aktuelle Situation der LGBTQ+ in Georgien © Mikheil Meparishvili www.netgazeti.ge

LGBTQ+ in Georgia © Mikheil Meparishvili www.netgazeti.ge

Sexual Education in Lebanon

Although it always depends on the individual school and the more or less liberal curriculum, sexual education in Lebanon is usually kept to a minimum. Contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are not part of the subject of the lesson, in most cases only reproduction will be dealt with in a few hours. Proud Lebanon, however, deliberately excludes schools from its education and information program, and only looks after people aged 18 and over to avoid being accused of making children gay. Minors seeking help, for example, support the children and youth NGO Himaya.

 

 

With regard to prevention and sexually transmitted diseases education, the Lebanese government, more specifically the Ministry of Health, would produce informational films for World AIDS Day that could be seen on all TV channels for one or two weeks, but rarely more than 20 Seconds and would only summarize basic information, such as condoms and tests for sexually transmitted diseases. “In my personal opinion, the theming of sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex must begin at school. In this way, we can positively influence how children and adolescents see sexuality, and so we can create a liberal and tolerant generation, “says Dr. Maatouk of LebMASH. Nevertheless, he recognizes a positive change in knowledge within society. “In recent years, questions have become more concrete. The patients are better informed. For example, they no longer ask ‘What is HIV?’, but ‘How can I protect myself?’ “. Often, these specific questions also relate to the spectrum of sexual identity. So, one question would no longer be ‘Why is someone gay?’, but ‘What can I do for inclusion?’ Another positive effect, Dr. Maatouk, is that fewer and fewer men would be sent into therapy to change their sexuality.

 

Censorship of Gay Scenes

Nevertheless, homosexuality is still taboo in the public media. Even with international films or plays LGBT scenes are censored. Gay dating apps, such as Grindr, are blocked and can only be used via detours with VPN. Nevertheless, Makso considers the Lebanese youth more liberal than the previous generations. Precisely for this reason, he considers it important to start with older generations and to gain religious spokesmen for the cause of LGBT people. At the moment, events such as the Gay Pride 2019 have just been stopped because religious conservatives have turned to the government, saying that the events endanger the morality of society, Maatouk explains.

 

 

Schwulsein in Russland Being gay in Russia under the ban on homosexual propaganda

How gay-friendly is it to be gay in Russia?

Being Gay in Russia

Although homosexuality is not officially illegal in Russia – same-sex sexual acts have been legal since 1993 – a law was passed in 2013 that criminalizes to speak positively about homosexuality in the presence of a minors. Officially, the law makers aim to protect minors. So they claim…

“The problem is not only the law, but also society”

For both Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, there are strong conservative currents that have little or no understanding of homosexuality. It is not uncommon for homosexuality to still be understood as an illness or as a disorder caused, for example, by neglect in childhood. LebMASH has therefore produced a video explaining that sexual orientation is something that can not or does not need to be treated.

 

 

Till, who has a different name in real life, is a member of the Lebanese LGBT Media Monitor, an organization that gathers news about the community and provides a platform for exchange. He explains the disapproval of many Lebanese to LGBT people with a strong macho culture in Lebanon, where the man is always seen as a strong leader and who wants to be seen as an alpha animal. This can already be seen in the discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community itself. It makes a significant difference, for example, who takes over the active role in anal sex. For many, only the recipient is considered gay.

 

Gay Travelers in Lebanon

“In Lebanon, the existence of LGBT is possible and freedom is given to some extent as long as it provokes no provocation,” explains Makso. From 2003, he organized self-guided tours for gay men in Lebanon, but also Syria and Jordan, but ended the offer when he started with Proud Lebanon. Nevertheless, his organized trips have been used in the past. “With me, gay travelers could be themselves. They did not have to pretend. “Gays who want to travel to Lebanon should be aware, however, that showing affection publicly can lead to difficulties. Even in gay bars or gay clubs kisses and body contact are prevented.

Reiseplanung: Gay Travel Guide Nomadic Boys (Hotels & Bars)

 

 

More interesting articles for you:

Do you wanna know and see more of us gay couple travel bloggers? Stay tuned on InstagramTwitterYouTube, and Facebook! See you around in Europe or on one of our next gay pride trips around the world!

 

More about Sarah

The first woman behind Couple of Men. My name is Sarah and I was born in Germany. So far I have lived and worked in the Czech Republic, Spain, and the Netherlands. Currently, I am working in Amsterdam. I am a journalist and in 2016, I decided to become freelancer. I enjoy writing about topics that I consider important, like human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and politics, and I hope my articles will raise some more awareness of global injustice. I follow my passion for traveling, I love to read and to make music. And the best part is that I can choose to turn into a digital nomad for a while whenever I feel like it. So my text article might come from a beautiful sunny beach in Argentina.

Being gay in Lebanon: A slow change in society towards more tolerance & acceptance

“Being gay in the Arab world is not the same as being gay in the Netherlands, for example. Society always plays a role, as does religion and one’s family,” says Bertho Makso. Nevertheless, society would be changing – albeit slowly – and more famous people would take positions publicly. Just a few years ago, it would not have been possible to approach political parties and (at least unofficially) receive a positive response and encouragement. So a discussion is already underway, but not in public – the time has not come yet because many politicians would still fear for their voters.

Nevertheless, according to Makso, the isolated cases of court decisions in favor of the LGBT community would be used to portray Lebanon as gay-friendly. After all, Beirut has an international reputation as a gay metropolis in the Middle East.

Photo source: Pixabay | Unsplash
Information source: GayStarNews | Queer.de | Spiegel | Wikipedia

Karl & Daan.

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