Last edited: March 26, 2005

Lebanon Gays Push for Law Change, October 19, 2004

By Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network

In what is being described as the first publicity offensive of its kind in the Arab world, a gay rights group in Lebanon is trying to overturn the country’s ban on homosexuality, according to Middle East Online.

The group, Hurriyyat Khassa or Private Liberties, wants to end Article 534 of Lebanon’s penal code, which punishes those guilty of “sexual intercourse against nature” with a one-year jail sentence.

Hurriyyat Khassa started its campaign with a screening at the American University in Beirut of the movie “Victim.”

“We chose ‘Victim’ because this 1961 movie helped change the law in Britain (on homosexuality),” said a member of Hurriyyat Khassa.

“It had the same impact for homosexuals that the film “In The Heat of the Night” had for the battle against racism in the United States,” he explained.

According to the Internet Movie Database, “Victim” tells the story of a married lawyer who is being blackmailed after having an affair with another man. As the attorney tries to fight the blackmailer, he meets other people whose lives were ruined by the threat of having their sexuality exposed. The movie ends with the attorney and his wife coming to terms with his homosexuality, and an indictment on England’s sodomy law, which the film portrays as nothing but a device for blackmail.

According to Helem, another group lobbying for LGBT rights in Lebanon, what was true in Britain in the ‘60s is true in Lebanon today.

“The first thing that a policeman attempts to obtain from a homosexual are confessions of sexual relations with politicians ... and it is always the weak who are caught, as the rich and powerful (gays) always find ways for protection,” the group said.

But Helem noted the problems in Lebanon are minor compared to other countries in the Arab world.

According to Amnesty International, some 44 people in Saudi Arabia were sentenced to jail terms for homosexuality, including four who were sentenced to death. Human rights activists have frequently criticized Egypt for abuses suffered by men suspected of being gay.

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