Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gay Lebanese Seeking Asylum

BEIRUT: Lebanese homosexuals have sought political asylum in the Netherlands to escape their country's tough laws which brand homosexuality an "unnatural" act and to avoid jail at home, Lebanese officials said. Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code "bans unnatural sexual relations" although it does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, the officials in Beirut said.

Lebanese lawyers said that homosexuals are considered law breakers and could face between two and three months in prison.

The explanations came after the Dutch Parliament asked the Lebanese Embassy in The Hague if gay rights are respected in Lebanon, the officials said.

The request was made after an unspecified number of gay Lebanese nationals sought political asylum in the Netherlands, arguing that homosexuality is banned in Lebanon.

Last year the Lebanese non-governmental organization "Private Liberties" launched a campaign with the screening of a film which deals with the rights of homosexuals.

According to another NGO organization, Helem (dream), 5 percent of Lebanese said they were homosexuals in a study carried out in 1999. - AFP