On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) would like to take the opportunity to remind government officials, Lebanese police and security forces, policy makers, health care professionals, and the public in general that persecution and marginalization of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people and other minorities have serious and detrimental direct and indirect consequences on health.

Numerous studies have shown a direct link between the stress induced by persecution and marginalization and negative mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidality. Also, living in fear and isolation can lead to engagement in risky relationships which could include abuse and unsafe sexual practices, which ultimately has a negative impact on public health.

Persecution and marginalization of LGBT people enforces the taboo that surrounds all issues related to LGBT health making training of health care professionals on LGBT issues difficult. Also, discrimination against LGBT people can lead to loss of employment and lack of social support, both crucial in obtaining health care services and maintaining one’s health.

The Trans community bears the brunt of this discrimination as they deal with additional stressors and more severe forms of persecution leading to much worse health outcomes.

LebMASH is especially distraught that at the basis of this persecution and discrimination is the penal code 534 which states that “all sexual intercourse against nature can be punishable with up to 1 year in jail.”The reality is that homosexuality is a natural variation of human sexuality. The Lebanese Psychiatric Society (LPS), the Lebanese Psychological Association (LPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have affirmed on numerous occasions that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. The medical community has agreed that homosexuality is not a physical disease either. Therefore, article 534 does not apply to homosexuality and LebMASH is very encouraged by the recent ruling in Metn by judge Hisham Qantar that confirmed this understanding.

We believe that each one of us in a unique individual and that people in Lebanon differ greatly from each other. Groups of people can differ as well significantly when it comes to certain attributes like religion, sex, age, and socioeconomic status. People are all the same however in one thing: we all share the same right to health and well-being. To achieve this right, we need to put an end to persecution and marginalization.

Sincerely, Omar Fattal, MD, MPHPresident, LebMASH