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Celebrities and Activists Call for Equality for Lebanon's LGBT Community: VIDEO



BEIRUT — The Middle East is not a friendly place for the LGBT community.

In Egypt, gay men are arrested and locked up on charges of “debauchery.” Being gay in Iran can mean a death sentence. Elsewhere in the region, punishments range from lashings to lengthy prison terms.

2_lebanonBut here in Lebanon, there's been steady progress over the past few years.

Although a number of laws criminalizing homosexuality remain on the books (article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code states that "sexual intercourse contrary to nature" is punishable for up to one year in prison), successful prosecutions are rare.

Campaigners had cause for celebration in 2013, when Lebanon’s Psychiatric Society declared that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. Early last year, a Lebanese judge dismissed a case against a transgender woman charged with “unnatural sexual intercourse,” a ruling that activists said renders the anti-gay legislation meaningless.

Proud_lebanonAs progress has been made on the legal side, gay rights campaigners have turned their attention to changing societal attitudes toward the LGBT community. A 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 18 percent of Lebanese people believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.

To mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHO) on May 17, a group by the name of Proud Lebanon has released a video calling for an end to discrimination against LGBT people in the country — including by changing the current discriminatory laws.

The video, which features a number of Lebanese celebrities, says that “being different isn’t shameful.”

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Teen's Family Attempts To Kidnap And Force Him Into A Straight Marriage: VIDEO

Screenshot 2015-03-12 19.02.40

At the age of 15 Nasser El-A made the decision to come out to his his conservative Lebanese family. Though Nasser and his family lived in relatively progressive Berlin at the time, many of his relatives thought of his revelation as being sacrilegious and took steps to “fix” him.

Years later, after multiple threats of physical violence and an instance in which he was doused in gasoline, Nasser fled his home in search of a place where he might find refuge. Ultimately, the teen found Papatya, an outreach group specializing in the housing needs of battered women and children. He stayed with the organization until being invited back home by his mother who assured his safety.

Upon returning home, however, Nasser’s father and two of his uncles kidnapped the teenager in an attempt to whisk him off to Lebanon and force him into an arranged marriage with a woman. Given Nasser's age, his kidnapping triggered an Interpol alert. The boy was found hours later by police authorities along the Romanian-Bulgarian border and brought back to Germany.

Though Nasser’s father and two uncles were unsuccessful in trying to forcibly convert the boy, the Berlin Criminal Court slapped each of the men with fines close to $2000 for the roles they played in the kidnapping.

"I'm not someone who hides away. I don't want to suppress my sexuality," Nasser said after the recent court ruling. "I have managed to bring this case to court. For me this chapter in my life is over now."

Listen to Nasser's full statements AFTER THE JUMP...

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Lebanese Police Use WhatsApp to Target Gay Men

Whatsapp-logoPolice in Lebanon have taken to using messaging app WhatsApp to target men they suspect of being gay.

Helem, a Lebanese LGBTQI organization, has released the following warning, which succinctly explains the situation:

Helem has learned that the Hobeich police station has been arresting individuals in Beirut and going through their WhatsApp contacts. They are summoning contacts from detainees based on their WhatsApp conversations to go down to the police station for questioning. If you receive a phone call DO NOT GO, call 71 916 146 and Helem representatives will instruct you on what to do. DO NOT answer unknown numbers and save the Hobeich police station numbers on your phone so you can recognize them.

This is very important, please share with all of your friends and contacts either publicly or privately.

The news is the latest in a series of extreme behavior of Lebanese police toward gay men. In the wake of yesterday's news about the flaw in Grindr, it's also a stark reminder of how apps are changing our notion of privacy.

27 Men Detained in Beirut on Suspected Charges of Homosexuality

On Wednesday, Lebanese NGOs called for the immediate release of 27 men detained in Beirut last week after police received a tip that the group were at a Turkish-style bath house looking for sex with other men.

LebanonLebanon's The Daily Star reports:

On Aug. 9, a unit with the judicial police’s Moral Protection Bureau raided the Agha hammam after a detainee told police at the Hbeish police station in Hamra that gay men sought “sexual encounters with other men” there, the NGOs said in a joint statement.

Police arrested the owner of the hammam, the employees and several clients. All clients remain in custody at the detention center, the statement said, quoting a colonel at the police station

The NGOs - Helem, Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality, M-Coaltion, Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health - released a joint statement saying in part:

“We made contact with the detainees who expressed their discomfort and confusion regarding the process of the investigation and the charges. It has also come to our attention that at the time of the raid no public sexual act was taking place at the Agha hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged (homo)sexuality,” the statement said.

“We denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved and we call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their (sexual) bodies,” it added.

Lebanese officials informed the NGOs that none of the men were forced to undergo the widely-criticized 'gay test' - forcible anal probing - that we reported last month was being carried out by Lebanese police.    

Lebanese Police Conducting Torturous 'Gay Tests' On Suspected Gay Men

Members of the Lebanon police force’s “Moral Protection Bureau” alleged to be carrying out physical tests on men suspected to be homosexual, according to the Independent.

Screenshot 2014-07-17 08.21.08The tests, which include forcible anal probing, have been banned in the country, and are considered to be humiliating and degrading treatment by the Human Rights Watch.

While homosexuality remains illegal in Lebanon, the physical testing practices suspected of being used are considered a form of torture, and are illegal. A doctor, hired by the police to investigate the sexualities of five Lebanese and Syrian men, is said to have conducted the “test” at the authority's behest.

“We are asking the Order of Physicians to sue him [the doctor] for professional misconduct,” attorney Saghieh told The Daily Star, expressing concern that there were more unreported cases. “There are many sanctions available, so it is up to the people who are hearing this case to decide on what is adequate.”

Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer, Defrocked For Presiding At Son’s Gay Wedding, Reinstated Following Appeal - VIDEO


Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked last year for officiating at his son Tim’s gay wedding in 2007, has been reinstated after winning an appeal.

Until his defrocking, Mr Schaefer had been the pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

A United Methodist Church appeals committee deemed the defrocking of Schaefer, who is the father of three gay children, to be an illegitimate effort to punish the pastor for his refusal to promise not to preside at another same-sex wedding.

Although the appeals panel did not question Mr. Schaefer’s guilt and upheld a 30-day suspension as punishment for violations of church law, it ruled that defrocking was wrong because “clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future.” The panel also decided that Schaefer should get back pay dating to when the suspension ended in December.

Speaking to The New York Times, Schaefer said that the committee’s decision sends a clear message that “change is on the way.”  

On his website, he said:

“I can't even begin to describe how meaningful this "refrocking" is to me. I never did understand the severity of my punishment for an act of love for my son Tim. The committee of appeals understood that my defrocking sought to penalize me not for what I did but for what I might do in the future.”

However, according to Reverend Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, a United Methodist organization that opposes gay marriage:

“When we have people who are not only disobedient, but who find a way to not have to keep the covenant they have made with the rest of the church, it helps us see that maybe we are so different that we’ve come to the end of the road together.”

Schaefer will resume his pastoral work next month with Isla Vista Student Ministry in Santa Barbara, California.

Watch Schaefer speak about his reinstatement, AFTER THE JUMP...

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