Judge Janet Hanna of theBeirut, Lebanon Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a transgender man seeking to change his gender marker on public records and in the national civil registry. The decision marks the first time in Lebanon that a person has legally been able to change their gender marker. Many activists in the region are highlighting this as an important step toward equality.
Lebanon has the reputation of being the most LGBT-friendly Arab country. The nightlife in Beirut is relatively larger than any other Arab city, with many LGBT bars and clubs. However, discriminatory laws and policies persist.
Despite the ruling, transgender people are still required to undergo gender reassignment surgery to secure gender marker changes. The law also requires transgender people to be unmarried and childless. And while the Lebanese Psychiatric Society declared in 2013 that homosexuality is not a mental illness, the current penal code allows for same-sex activity to be punished under an article that prohibits sexual acts “contradicting the laws of nature.”
In 2014, in a groundbreaking court case, a judge abolished the case against a transgender woman accused of having a “same-sex relationship with a man,” stating that homosexuality can no longer be considered a crime because it is “not unnatural.” Since the existing penal code is vague and does not specify which sexual acts qualify as “contradicting the laws of nature,” this judge referred to a UN human rights resolution that Lebanon signed, articulating that LGBT rights are human rights.
Advocates in Lebanon said the most recent ruling may help pave the way for further progress towards equality in Lebanon in 2016.
Transgender recognition laws have recently gained more traction at the global level. In 2015, we saw a record number of countries, from Ireland to Malta to Bolivia, adopt laws to recognize and protect the transgender community. More information on these specific laws can be found in HRC’s 2015: A Year in Review of LGBT Equality Worldwide.
UPDATE: a Third Verdict was ruled to de-criminalize Sodomy in Lebanon.