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
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
“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
“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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