A HISTORIC court ruling in Lebanon has made it the first Arab nation to no longer consider same-sex relations a crime.

The decision came from Judge Naji El Dahdah of Jdeide Court in the capital city of Beirut, who dismissed a case brought against a trans woman on January 28. The Lebanese state had accused the unnamed trans* woman of having a “same-sex relationship with a man”.

However, in El Dahdah’s ruling that was revealed this earlier week, he stated that same-sex relations were not “contradicting the laws of nature” and therefore not considered a crime.

El Dahdah reportedly based his decision on a previous ruling by Lebanese LGBTI lobby group Helem, which stated that gender identity was not only defined by the legal papers and that homosexuality was an exception to the “norms” but not unnatural. Hence, it rendered article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code, which prohibits sexual relations that “contradict the laws of nature”, as invalid.

This latest news comes after Helem won a legal campaign in 2009 that resulted in a judge in the coastal town of Batroun ruling against the use of article 534 to prosecute LGBTI people.

In addition, last year the Lebanese Psychiatric Society stated that homosexuality was not a mental disorder and did not need to be treated. The organisation also ruled that “therapy” that sought to “convert” gay people into straight people had no scientific support.

Although article 534 has not yet been completely repealed, advocates have stated that hopefully this ruling would encourage more judges to make similar decisions.

Despite the laws largely being unenforced by authorities, especially with a thriving gay bar scene in Beirut, those who are convicted faced up to a year in prison.

According to Beirut-based Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, Lebanese trans* people also still need a court order to legally change their gender, but only after the long process of gaining a report from three psychologists and a psychiatrist.

 

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