Although the law isn’t usually used to jail people, the police still use Article 534 in order to intimidate the LGBTQ community.
A top court in Lebanon has ruled that homosexuality is not a crime after a case was brought to them seeking to overturn the acquittal of nine people.
The original decision was taken back in January where a judge ruled that it was “a practice of their fundamental rights” for people to have gay sex. This new ruling agrees with the original decision, and said that the law was never “intended to criminalise homosexuality but rather offence to public morals.”
Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code criminalises “unnatural sex” and punishes offenders with up to a year in a jail. However, in Judge Randa Khoury’s ruling, they said that homosexuality shouldn’t be criminalised unless it took place in a public area, or with a minor. Judge Khoury also said that Article 534 was “outdated” and no longer reflected “social development.”
Karin Nammour, an activist working with the pro-LGBTQ group Legal Agenda praised the decision. He said that although some lower courts had previously acquitted homosexuals prosecuted under the article, this is the first time that a Court of Appeal has done so.
“The appeals court has a certain authority… It’s higher in the hierarchy,” Nammour said. He then added that the ruling “could have repercussions on the way that lower court judges rule.”
Back in March, the Kataeb Party, a right-wing Christian Democratic party, vowed to decriminalise gay sex if they won the country’s general election, which was held in May. However, the party failed to win, and as they only have three seats in Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament, it might be a while off before homosexuality is decriminalised.
Support for the LGBTQ community in Lebanon among the citizens is middling. A 2015 report titled “As Long As They Stay Away: Exploring Lebanese Attitudes Towards Sexuality and Gender Identities” examined the attitudes of 1,200 people.
It found that just over 75% of respondents didn’t think it’d be beneficial to society to regard homosexuality as normal, and only a third thought that homosexuality was a normal part of society. It also found that over half of the respondents thought that homosexuality should be illegal. However, only 30% thought that it should be punishable by a jail term. The full report can be read here.