Jun 112012
Beirut Lebanon

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The Lebanon appears to be the more liberal countries on the question of morals. While they are flogged in Saudi Arabia, imprisoned in Egypt and sentenced to death in Iran, Lebanese homosexuals enjoy relative freedom and the protection of the most powerful association for homosexuals in the region. However, the revelations about the humiliating practices of some police barracks cast doubt on real tolerance of the country towards this community.

Founded in 2004, Helem Foundation is the first association for the rights of homosexuals in the Lebanon and a model for other communities in the Middle East. It works to eliminate discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. And Lebanon appears often as progressive on issues of morality. That said, relatively well accepted in some circles and regions, Lebanese homosexuals are also victims of discrimination and even physical and symbolic violence.

Several associations today denounced the behavior of some police officers and the harassment of members of the gay community. Forced to undress and to undergo degrading medical examinations, some Lebanese youth suspected of homosexuality and excavations are tortured in barracks. To determine their sexual orientation, young people are tested by doctors who - of their own confessions - are, however, unable to determine their homosexuality only anal examination.

Remains the deliberately humiliating dimension of these practices which have other goals than to abuse this muck of the population. "We have broken the silence," said Nizar Saghieh, whose legal NGO the Agenda is at the origin of the conference held in Beirut on these "reviews of shame". For him, totally illegal and ineffective, anal tests are "acts of torture" organized by a police who "wants to give the impression that it has the means of knowing". This practice would be used to "intimidate the suspect and to get him to confess, arguing that if homosexuality is discovered during the examination, the penalties incurred will be more severe."

Despite his reputation, the Lebanon is not an idyllic country for the homosexual community. Far from it. Lebanese society may be considered to be the most modern in the region, it remains conservative. For homosexuals, the daily is rough and many are reduced to hide their sexual orientation, particularly in the villages of the mountain or in traditional families more generally. If civil society tries to change the situation of gays to the Lebanon, without a change deep in the attitudes and the law, outrageous practices such as those condemned today will remain required. As long as a majority of the population will consider as sexual deviants, homosexuals in the Lebanon, as for that matter, continue to be victims of this type of violence.

Hope is nevertheless allowed in light of the outcry about these revelations on "examinations of shame", notably on social networks. If the authorities remained silent, communities connected to the Net may intend to open a debate on article 534 of the Constitution which punishes "unnatural sexual relations".