Beirut: A coalition of Lebanese civil society organisations published a letter condemning what it calls a “crackdown” on LGBT rights by authorities.
The letter, signed by the Coalition to Defend Freedom of Expression in Lebanon, said that the government had unlawfully banned peaceful gatherings in support of LGBT people.
It further said that the move to quash the gatherings violated LGBT people’s constitutional rights to “equality, free expression and free assembly … during a worsening climate for the rights of LGBT people.”
On 24 June, Lebanon’s Minister of Interior instructed Lebanon’s security directorates to shut down any events “promoting sexual perversion.” His order, according to the Coalition, included no legal pretext but instead said that such events violate “traditions and customs.”
LGBT activists decided to postpone a planned march on 26 June after receiving threats of violence against them and over fears that security forces would not protect them.
On the same day the order was sent, security officers began to summon LGBT activists for informal chats and notified them that their social media activities were being monitored.
“The Interior Ministry’s unlawful decision to ban events promoting LGBTI rights alarmingly indicates the deterioration of human rights and freedoms in Lebanon,” said Tarek Zeidan, executive director of the Lebanese LGBT activist organisation Helem.
The ban on any pro-LGBT events was followed by a flurry of hate speech against LGBT people in Lebanon, both by officials and on social media. On 26 June, MP Ashraf Rifi said that “promoting homosexuality is inconsistent with the principles, history and customs of our society.”
A panel entitled, “The dangers of homosexual perversion and its treatment,” was announced to be held on 1 July by a local group.
Civil society groups in Lebanon have since released statements condemning such hate speech.
The Lebanese Psychiatric Society released a statement on 29 June clarifying that “homosexuality cannot be considered a disease that requires treatment … and emphasized the importance of avoiding offensive and threatening language.”
Lebanese courts ruled in July 2018 that homosexual activity is not unlawful, with judges denouncing a law which criminalised “sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature.” The government also accepted recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council in 2021 to ensure the right to peaceful assembly and expression for LGBT people.
In practice, authorities regularly target LGBT activists and prevent events in support of their rights. The Lebanese musical group “Mashrou3 Leila,” which has been vocal in its support for LGBT rights, has faced harassment from security services in the past.
In 2019, their planned performance at the Byblos International Festival was canceled after the band’s pro-LGBT stance attracted a wave of controversy.
The coalition concluded its letter by urging authorities not to use LGBT people “as a scapegoat” and instead pass reforms to alleviate the country’s economic crisis.
Courtesy: The Arab News