Lebanese LGBT Group Protests Against Gay Anal Testing
A leading LGBT rights group from Lebanon recently protested against the use of anal probes and virginal exams on men who are suspected of being gay, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported.
Members of HELEM, a leading LGBT group in the Arab world, stood in front of the Lebanese ministry of justice in the country’s capital of Beirut on Saturday and demanded the use of "gay tests" by the government be stopped immediately. Anal tests are used on men who are suspected of being gay; women are subjected to exams to determine if they are virgins.
The protest was in response to an incident in July, when 36 men were arrested after police raided a porn cinema where gay men often have sex. The men were forced not only to take the controversial tests but also to pay for them themselves.
Lebanon is one of the most conservative countries in the world when it comes to LGBT rights as it does not recognize any form of same-sex relationships and has outlawed citizens from engaging in homosexual relations. According to the country’s penal code, individuals caught having gay sex or "contradicting the laws of nature" can be sentenced up to a year in prison. A 2007 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of Lebanese believe homosexuality "should be rejected" and only 18 percent believe being gay should be accepted.
One of HELEM’s goals is to repeal the article in the penal code that bans same-sex relations.
The historical protest was the biggest public demonstration of LGBT rights in the Arab world, Gay Star News points out. The only other time a gay rights protest took place was in 2008, which also occurred in Beirut.
"We’re here because we want a clear statement from the ministry of justice that these kind of tests should be completely abolished and punished by the law," George Azzi, a protester, said. "The syndicate of doctors has declared these tests are irrelevant scientifically and it’s illegal for doctors to do these tests, but that doesn’t mean police can’t still request it."
Protesters chanted and held signs that read, "United to abolish the tests of shame." Other signs read, "Honorable minister, before you test my anus, at least take me out to dinner" and "The cost of forensic rape: 125,000 Lebanese lira," which is about $85.
Gay Star News explains that the anal tests "involve examining someone’s anus to see if it has been penetrated but they are discredited as inaccurate and a form of torture by human rights advocates and the Lebanese medical association."
"We are here to ask the ministry of justice to send a decree to all police stations in Lebanon to respect human rights and halt these kind of tests," Charbel Maydaa told local media.
Azzi told Gay Star News that he believes the tests "will be very soon part of an ugly history."
"I know many were afraid to be part of the protest because of the exposure it is getting, today there was an amazing positive energy that breaks the wall of fear, hopefully more [and] more will come out in the street next time when needed," he added.
Despite government and societal censure the New York Times reported three years ago that Beirut has an active gay nightlife scene.
"Beirut’s vitality as a Mediterranean capital of night life has fueled a flourishing gay scene - albeit one where men can be nervous about public displays of affection and where security guards at clubs can intercede if the good times turn too frisky on the dance floor," reporter Patrick Healey wrote. "Even more than the partying, Beirut represents a different Middle East for some gay and lesbian Arabs: the only place in the region where they can openly enjoy a social life denied them at home."