Beyond 534: A Gendered Perspective to LGBTQ Activism in Lebanon

Published: September 6, 2010

Lebanon-based LGBTQ organization Helem hosted on Thursday, August 26, 2010 a talk on sex and the law in Lebanon, by PhD candidate at Columbia University in New York, and academic researcher Maya Mikdashi.

Mikdashi, whose doctorate explores intersections and impasses between the practices of law and citizenship in Lebanon, discussed what “good” and “bad sex” are according to the Lebanese state. She also stressed the importance of having a holistic view of how sex is regulated in Lebanese civil, personal status, and criminal laws and questioned the focus LGBTQ activists put on the repeal of Article 534, which criminalizes “sexual acts against nature” with up to one year in prison.

Before outlining what constitutes “good sex” and “bad sex” for the Lebanese state, Mikdashi explained the relationship between the law and gender in Lebanon. “Law is not only regulative, oppressive or liberatory,” she said. “In fact, the relationship between law and gender is perhaps best described as productive.” In other words, both men and women are produced “as a particular practice of rights and duties.” As such, different sets of gendered laws are put into effect according to that recognition of sex. “The function of the law is not only to repress or grant rights to women and men, or heterosexuals and queers,” she stressed. “Laws help produce these gendered categories.”

By virtue of the systems in place in Lebanon, the rights and duties of male and female citizens are dramatically different. “These different rights and duties are found in the civil, penal and personal status laws in force,” Mikdashi said. “Due to the fact that the gendered differentiation of citizenship is dramatic, the legal positions of men, women and transsexuals in the LBGTQ community occupy are also very different.”

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