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On the ninth of August, Lebanese police, from the Hbeish police station, which has formerly been criticised for using the anal probe test to investigate human sexuality, arrested 27 men in a Beiruti bathhouse, Agha Hammam, in the Hamra-Concord district of Beirut. The police have reported that all men were unarmed and that the police had arrested the men based on tip-off information from a previously arrested gentleman, who claimed that Agha Hammam was a meeting place for men seeking to have sex with other men. The raid, according to Helem, the Arab World’s first LGBT rights organisation, is the largest since the Borj Hammoud cinema raid in 2013.
Whilst the anal test has been used by this particular police station before, despite the fact it runs against the Lebanese Order of Physicians’ (LOP) Code of Conduct, the police have announced that, thankfully, it was not inflicted upon these unfortunate men. However, Colonel Tony Haddad of the police has claimed that the sexual orientation of 24 of the men has been ‘confirmed’, whereas 3 of the men have been described ‘not gay’.
Despite the branding of the majority of these man as ‘Luwat’ by such media outlets as MTV Lebanon (translating to ‘fags’, in English), there is no proof that any sexual intercourse or activity was taking place at the time of the arrest. The owner, employees and all the clientele present at the time were arrested. The clientele remain in custody.
A coalition of 5 advocacy groups – Helem, The Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), M-Coalition and Marsa Sexual Health Clinic – have come together and released a strong position statement, saying: “we denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved… We call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their (sexual) bodies.”
Legal Agenda, a human rights organisation in Beirut, have announced that the men have been held longer than is legally allowed by the Lebanese Penal Code, for, under Article 47, they may only be held for 48 hours, which is renewable once. However, under Article 105, crimes which are punishable by only one year in jail do not apply. The men are understood, however, not to be being charged with the standard Article 531, which condemns homosexual intercourse as ‘unnatural’, but, rather to be being charged with Article 521, which condemns public indecency.
Sarah Wansa, of Legal Agenda, told Al-Akhbar (a Lebanese daily newspaper), that they [Legal Agenda] no longer consider homosexuality to be a crime punishable under Article 534 because of its designation of homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ – a claim which LebMASH has been stridently fighting against through its seminars around Lebanon.
There have been two precedents where homosexuality has not been punished by Lebanese judges. However, because Lebanese law was based on the French Civil Law system, rather than the English Common Law system, these precedents do not change future rulings, meaning that homosexuals will still be at risk of prosecution under Article 534 is no longer applied to homosexuality.
LebMASH was invited to participate in a student project on sexual health in Lebanon. The project consisted of having an interview on a talk show organized by Amine Rhayem, 3rd year journalism student at the Notre Dame University. Rhayem chose to have LebMASH and Marsa (sexual health clinic) on his panel to discuss sexual health in Lebanon.
LebMASH, represented by its vice president Omar Harfouch, talked about the difficulties that face individuals who seek sexual health services in clinics especially LGBT individuals and sexually active women. Harfouch also talked about LebMASH’s achievements so far on lobbying for the release of the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and Lebanese Psychological Association’s statements on homosexuality not being a disease and condemning so called reparative therapies. Harfouch also mentioned the recent educational sessions and workshops done with health care professionals on how to deal with LGBT health and sexual health. Marsa, represented by its communication officer Yara Al Mousawi, talked about the services that are offered to Marsa and about the discrimination that still surrounds sexual health in Lebanon.
The talk show was attended by professor and journalist May Chidiac who congratulated the guests on their work in the sexual health field.
We at LebMASH wish Amine Rahyem all the best on this project and thank him for thinking of us as an outlet to spread awareness on sexual health.
On the 31st May, 2014, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) held a 5-session medical conference on
health needs of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals in Lebanon, in the West Hall of the American University of Beirut (AUB). The day commenced with an introduction by Dr. Faysal El-Kak, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB. Drs. Hasan Abdessamad, founder and current president of LebMASH, and Omar Fattal, co-founder and executive board member of LebMASH, presented on the topic. Dr. Nesrine Rizk, AUB instructor of infectious diseases, gave an elaborate talk on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The session lasted throughout most of the day and was followed by a Q&A session with strong interaction from the audience.
Dr. El Kak spoke about the need for such seminars, discussing how “no healthcare is complete without healthcare for all people, based in human rights” and that these seminars go a long way to helping people understand homosexuality and not view it simply in the light of the myths surrounding it.
Then, Dr. Fattal presented the same talk that he had given at Université Saint Joseph the previous week, which discussed the history of, and perceptions towards homosexuality. Focusing on the difference between attraction, behaviour and identity, he underlined that healthcare providers must not jump to making assumptions, without focusing on each area of the patient’s sexuality. However, he stressed that questions about sexuality and sexual health are of the utmost importance.
Dr. Abdessamad discussed the health of lesbian patients (and you can watch his talk with Arabic subtitles on LebMASH’s YouTube channel). Briefly, he underlined specific challenges faced by Lesbian patients, such as access to care. He stressed that in an ideal world there would be no need to discuss lesbian health as a separate topic since physicians should provide care to all patients equally, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, we do not live in an ideal world. He elaborated on how Lesbian and bisexual women’s health differs from that of heterosexual women, such as an increase in heart disease, breast cancer, substance abuse or obesity among others. This difference is not based in intrinsic or biological factors but rather extrinsic ones due to social and institutional discrimination.
Dr. Nesrine Rizk took the attendees through the A to Z of STDs, showing pictures of what to look for and explaining the symptoms and likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases amongst various different social groups.
Finally, Dr. Fattal returned to the stage where he discussed barriers to care faced by LGBT patients and suggested various ways by which healthcare providers can improve LGBT patients’ experience when they seek medical care. For instance, he spoke at length on the need for an inclusive language and a welcoming and relaxed body language.
Dr. Nesrine Rizk discussing the various STIs which doctors must watch out for, focusing on the specific threats facing the LGBT community.
LebMASH would like to thank the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Office at AUB who helped organise the event and hosted us within the university.
Below is a link to a part of Dr. Hasan Abdessamad’s talk on Lesbian health.
- En Français ici
Saint Joseph University’s Ethics Department & The Department of Psychiatry at the Faculty of Medicine are pleased to invite you to a conference on “Homosexuality seen by professionals” at Amphitheater C at USJ’s Faculty of Medicine on May 29th 2014, 5-6:30 pm.
Moderators: Father Michel SCHEUER and Dr Sami RICHA
- Interviewing techniques when working with LGBT people – Dr Omar FATTAL (Psychiatrist – USA, Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health – LebMASH)
- Evolution of the perception of homosexuality by the medical profession – Dr. Hala KERBAGE (Psychiatrist – Hôtel-Dieu de France)
- Homosexuality beyond the social perception – Miss Mirna MZAWAK (Sociologist – Holy Spirit University of Kaslik – USEK)
LebMASH would like to thank Mr. Antoine Bedaoui for designing this event’s poster.
- إقرأ بالعربية هنا
On July 21st 2013, a “Concerned Lebanese” left the following comment on our post: Response to Dr. Khoury’s interview about homosexuality.
My apologies if I come across as belligerent, but I have some criticism of this article (Which I believe to be poorly researched)
Did you know that this “world leader on mental health” was actually bullied by gay activists for 3 years before they declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder?
Moreover, did you know that two FORMER PRESIDENTS of the APA (Robert Perloff & Nicholas Cummings) have accused it of being a biased organization that is swayed by lobbying? Pretty serious stuff.
Dr. Khoury seems to know about the political correctness running through the veins of the APA and other “objective” organizations. You, on the other hand, came across as naive. (Sorry, but it’s true)
Btw, I am not attacking homosexuality. I am instead hoping you would see the flaws in your arguments.
Executive Board Member of LebMASH, Omar Fattal has written an official response to the above concern:
Dear concerned Lebanese,
Thank you for your interest in our page and for your feedback.
In our reply to Dr. Khoury, we mention the American Psychiatric Association and not the American Psychological Association. Dr. Perloff and Dr. Cummings are both former presidents of the American Psychological Association and not the American Psychiatric Association.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the official association that updates the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and they do so periodically. For example, in May of 2013, the APA came out with the DSM-V (five) which is the most recent version of the DSM.
The process of revising the DSM is an extremely complicated process. Just to give you an idea, the DSM-V Task Force and Work Groups were made up of more than 160 world-renowned clinicians and researchers who reviewed scientific literature and sought input from many advisors as the basis for proposing new draft criteria. Eventually, all proposed changes and revisions had to be approved by the board of trustees. Similarly, in 1974, the American Psychiatric Association went through a very complicated process to revise the DSM at that time.
The APA has several interest groups within its membership that does influence its policies and the organization does respond to external lobbying as well. However, the APA or any other professional organization for that matter is subjected to pressures from interest groups representing all points of views given a specific topic such as homosexuality. In the same way that there were groups in the years preceding 1974 asking the APA to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, there were other groups asking the APA to keep homosexuality on the list of mental illnesses. Also, just because a decision was made partially due to pressure from certain groups does not mean that the decision itself is not a valid one. The APA made its decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses in the context of strong evidence that was supportive of the fact that homosexuality was common and that homosexuals did not have psychological issues due to homosexuality itself.
This evidence came from research done by Kinsey in the late 1940s and early 1950s showing for the first time that homosexuality was much more common than previously thought.
In 1951, Clellan Ford and Frank Beach’s showed that homosexuality was common across cultures and existed in almost all nonhuman species. Their work supported the notion that homosexuality was both natural and widespread.
There was also strong and ground-breaking research done by Evelyn Hooker in the mid 1950s. Her study, which other researchers subsequently repeated, showed that there was no detectable difference between homosexual and heterosexual men in terms of mental adjustment.
Since 1974, hundreds of professional mental health organizations across the world have come out with statements confirming that homosexuality is not an illness and requires no treatment. The renowned World Health Organization (WHO) which includes members from all over the world, deleted homosexuality from the list of illnesses in 1991. Most recently, the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) and the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA) came out with strong public statements confirming that homosexuality is not a mental illness and requires no treatment. To our knowledge, the WHO, the LPS and LPA where not “bullied” by anyone to come out with these statements.
Almost 40 years have passed since the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illness and the DSM has been revised several times since then. These four decades would have given anyone plenty of time to prove that homosexuality in itself is a disorder, however, this has not happened.
The Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA) has just announced today that “homosexuality is not a mental illness and thus requires no treatment”. This comes one week after the Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS) released a similar statement and 2 month after our position statement on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) or what is referred to as “conversion or reparative therapy”.
LPA strongly urges the media to verify the credentials of guests hosted to talk about psychology especially that this field is not very well controlled in Lebanon suggesting that some individuals might pretend to hold credentials they don’t have. This could be a reference to recent appearance of “psychologist” on OTV whose arguments about homosexuality were not scientifically accurate.
LebMASH commends LPA for releasing such an essential and over due position statement. This truly reflects LPA’s commitment to equality in healthcare, evidence-base medicine and prejudice-free practice.
Today Lebanon witnessed an important milestone for our healthcare system and for equality among all citizens.
The Lebanese Psychiatric Society just released a statement on Thursday, July 11 2013, declaring the following:
“Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not need to be treated.”
“Homosexuality in itself does not cause any defect in judgment, stability, reliability or social and professional abilities.”
“The assumption that homosexuality is a result of disturbances in the family dynamic or unbalanced psychological development is based on wrong information.”
The Lebanese Psychiatric Society announced its strong opposition to Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE).
This comes two months after we released our position statement against Sexual Orientation Change Efforts on May 17 2013.
We would like to thank the Lebanese Psychiatric Society for this essential position statement to clarify the facts, dispel the myths and provide guidance to mental health professionals practicing in Lebanon.
Below is a glimpse of Lebanese media coverage of this statement:
- LBCI – المثليون بالنسبة للبنانيين “مرضى” والقانون يعاقبهم
- The Daily Star – Homosexuality not a mental disorder: Psychiatric Society
- L’Orient Le Jour – La Société libanaise de psychiatrie, l’homosexualité et les « thérapies réparatrices »…
- الوكالة الوطنية للإعلام – الجمعية اللبنانية للطب النفسي: المثلية لا تحتاج الى علاج
- وطن – (الطب النفسي) في لبنان: المثلية ليست مرضا ولا اضطرابا نفسيا – وطن
- المستقبل – «اللبنانية للطب النفسي» تدعو الخبراء في مجال الصحة إلى اعتماد العلم حصراً عندما يعبّرون عن آرائهم
- جريدة السفير – اللبنانية للطب النفسي: معلومات خاطئة عن المثلية
- لبانون فايلز – الجمعية اللبنانية للطب النفسي علقت على “مواقف وأخبار” عن المثلي
- جريدة الديار – تغيير التوجه الجنسي ليس هدفاً ملائماً للعلاج النفسي
- Yagg – France Plusieurs associations de professionnel.le.s de la santé dénoncent les «thérapies réparatrices»
- Al-Arabiya – Saudi Arabia Are the Lebanese becoming more tolerant to homosexuality?
- Al-Bab – USA LGBT milestone in Lebanon
- LA Times – USA Lebanese medical group says being gay is not a disease
- Gay Star News – UK Lebanese Psychiatric Society declares being homosexual is not a mental illness
- Pink News – UK Lebanese Psychiatric Society makes unprecedented statement against gay conversion therapy
- The Huffington Post – USA Lebanon Says: Being Gay Is Not a Disease and Needs No Treatment