Lebanon is viewed by many as a leading force in healthcare in the region. There is still room for great improvements. Many patient populations are marginalized and scared-away from seeking healthcare. This applies to sexual minorities and women with sexual health issues and certain reproductive or family planning needs. The excellence in healthcare Lebanon prides itself to have falls short from addressing the gaps in access to quality evidence-based and descrimination-free healthcare faced by women, as well as lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender individuals.
Women and sexual minorities are impacted by individual and institutionalized discrimination and biases based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Dr. Omar Harfouch presents an overview about the current situation and provides a glimpse of hope for these groups by presenting the work of few organizations whose mission is to advance healthcare to all without dismissing any minority or silenced majority. In addition to the role LebMASH plays, it is important here to point out the great work on healthcare done by other organizations in Lebanon and the region including Marsa Sexual Health Centre (A Red Ribbon Award winner 2014-2016 and Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality Award winner 2016), Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire (SIDC), Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE) with its projects: M-coalition and Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), and Mosaic to name a few.
Lebanon came a long way from having one organization (Helem) trying to address the social, legal, and health needs, to a handful of active and growing organizations tackling different aspects of advancement the wellbeing and rights of sexual minorities.
by Omar Harfouch
When I think about LGBT rights in Lebanon, a swinging pendulum comes to mind. Slow progress met with backlash and arbitrary detention. Article 534 of the penal code, a remnant from French colonization, criminalizes same-sex relationship; similar laws of indecency also criminalize transgender populations. Communities of lower socio-economic status and vulnerable groups, such as refugees, are most exposed to police harassment under these laws. A recent study showed that 81% of a representative Lebanese sample believed homosexuality was not normal. Nevertheless, LGBT activists stood fast in this environment and fought the institutional discrimination facing this community. LGBT health advocates even managed to stir up conversation on sexuality among their peers and the broader community.
Arguments rooted in public health principles supported many LGBT rights issues. Until 2012, forensic doctors performed anal tests, humiliating and torturous acts conducted on gay men and transgender women to ‘prove’ that they…
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