When Lebanon had its people vote on the elections, it’s not just the first in almost a decade – but rather the first time in a long time when Lebanese had a say in the issues the government had to tackle in this momentous occasion, one of which is gay rights.
In fact, for the first time in the country’s history, electoral candidates made a mark by having the most high-level endorsement of transgender, bisexual, gay, and lesbian protection in the Arab world. Should more reforms and changes be introduced in light of LGBT rights, Lebanon will be at the forefront of a massive change in the Arab world.
However, Lebanon is not without its own share of history against members of the LGBT community. As per an Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) video, a man can actually be sentenced for up to a year in jail for violating Article 534 of Lebanon, that which disallows Lebanese to “love another man.”
Today, almost 100 candidates have publicly called for homosexuality to be decriminalized. In fact, it came to the point that Article 534 is being pushed for removal. This had encouraged LGBT activists to push supporters to actively take part in the elections now more than ever.
In this elections, a lot of candidates outside the traditional Lebanese parties were also seen, including civil-society activists that pushed for better human rights in the nation.
Some activists have in fact argued that the traditional systems in Lebanon’s political, social, and cultural system can be blamed for the increased unemployment rates, failing infrastructure, and deeper debt. Some candidates, including Rania Masri of independent Kollouna Watani party, said part of her policies is to push for the removal of “all discriminatory policies” in the country.
Kollouna Watani, or translated as “We are all our nation,” is Lebanon’s largest civil-society coalition with as many as 66 candidates. Part of their objectives is to push for economic rights and improved women’s rights, with LGBT rights being part of their election platform.
Another significant part of the push for better social reforms may be in part due to the younger voters in the country. Conflicts in countries such as Syria and its civil war means this is the first time voters at the age of 21 to 29 are going to participate in the elections, with almost 800,000 young voters entering the fray.
Meanwhile, the endorsement of gay rights amongst the candidates will be the first step of any nation in the Arab world to put the issue in the limelight. This is significant, given it’s arrived just weeks after the Human Rights Watch’s 36-page report on the increase of activism for gay rights in the past few years.
It can be remembered that other Arab states are predominantly opposed to transgender and gay people, but incremental changes have been happening in various countries through the years.
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