John M. Becker

Lebanon's Sodomy Law Scrapped in Landmark Ruling

Filed By John M. Becker | March 05, 2014 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: gender expression, gender identity, Lebanon, sodomy law, trans rights

lebanon-map.jpgIn what's being hailed as a landmark ruling, a judge in the Middle Eastern country of Lebanon has struck down a law that criminalizes gay sex and other acts that "[contradict] the laws of nature" and punishes them with up to a year in prison.

The Daily Star reports:

The latest edition of The Legal Agenda, a quarterly magazine published by the non-governmental organization of the same name, reported Tuesday that, in January, Judge Naji al-Dahdah cleared a transsexual woman of having a same-sex relationship with a man, an act criminalized under Article 534 of Lebanon's penal code.

"It's a big step; it shows we're moving in the right direction," said Georges Azzi, a prominent activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights who is also the co-founder of Helem, a Lebanese group that has long been campaigning to change the law...

Dahdah ruled that Article 534, which criminalizes "unnatural sexual intercourse," did not provide a clear interpretation of what was considered unnatural.

This important verdict also illustrates just how far Lebanon has to go not just on gay rights but on trans rights. While the defendant is trans, the Daily Star article does not explicitly state that defendant uses female pronouns. It says that "she always felt she was a woman," but then engages in extensive discussion about genitalia before noting that the judge referred to the defendant first as male, then later as "he/she."

Still, the report makes it clear that this judge is starting to question gender preconceptions and stereotypes:

In his final ruling, Dahdah said that a person's gender should not simply be based on their personal status registry document, but also on their outward physical appearance and self-perception.

Perfect? Of course not. But the fact that these conversations about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are happening across Lebanon is a major victory indeed. Kudos to the incredible activists in that country who are working hard to take Lebanese society forward.

h/t: Joe. My. God.

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