While the cancellation of Pride activities is unfortunate, it is a clear breach of article 13 of the Lebanese Constitution, which safeguards freedom of expression and assembly, other LGBTIQ related activities commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) continue.
In reaction to news coverage of the recent Beirut Pride event cancellations, Georges Azzi, prominent Lebanese and Middle East and North Africa regional activist and Executive Director of the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) commented,
“Beirut Pride is a Pride, it is not a movement, there is a bigger movement happening in the country. There are several organizations working and are still having LGBT related events this week and throughout the year.”Over the last number of years, Lebanese activists have advanced the human rights of LGBTIQ people and there has been continued positive social attitudinal shifts on homosexuality and transgender identity. In an interview today with OutRight Action International, Azzi noted the many advances, including:
- Events associated with IDAHOTB have been taking place since 2005;
- LGBT organizations have won many court cases regarding Article 534, which contends unnatural intercourse, with judges having said that the article cannot be used against the LGBT community;
- A recent survey conducted in the country revealed that 65% of the population favored decriminalization of same-sex sexual acts;
- 90% of the population is against physical violence against the LGBT community;
- And just last week, Azzi’s regional organization, the Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE), conducted a series of interviews with candidates running for elections and found that more than one hundred of them wanted to decriminalize homosexuality.
“The public discourse is very welcoming now and this is why what happened with the Pride events this year came as a surprise for us, and we want to understand where it came from, but at the same time we don’t want people to think there is a crisis in Lebanon. There is no crisis. This incident happened, but the country is not in a crisis. There are organizations that are working and are moving forward and I am really hoping we can work on decriminalizing homosexuality really soon.”Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, called on Lebanese authorities to respect the rights of LGBTIQ activists and recognized the accomplishments of the movement, saying,
“Lebanon is a leader when it comes to LGBTIQ organizing and visibility in the Middle East and North Africa region. Authorities should respect the right of the LGBTIQ community’s freedom of speech and assembly and ensure that the activities for IDAHOTB go on without interference. Through their perseverance, activists in Lebanon have achieved incredible and inspiring progress.”Georges Azzi is in New York accepting OutRight Action International’s Felipa de Souza award on behalf of AFE. The Felipa de Souza award recognizes the courage and activism of grassroots groups and individuals working for the fundamental human rights of all people. Since 1994, OutRight has presented the award to courageous advocates working to advance the human rights of LGBTIQ people.