16 May 2016
Over in the troubled middle-east About 50 activists supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community staged a rare sit-in on Sunday in Lebanon to demand the abolition of local laws criminalising relations "against nature".
In the first such protest in four years, they also demanded the release of four transsexual women as they gathered outside the Hbeish gendarmerie in Beirut, where activists say morality police often hold such suspects.
"Homosexuality is not a disease," and "Sex is not illegal - your law is archaic," read a placard at the event organised by the Lebanon-based Helem association, considered to be the most important Arab group defending LGBT rights.
"Repeal 534" could also be read, a reference to the article in the Lebanese penal code under which sexual relations "against nature" are outlawed and punishable by up to one year in prison.
Helem chief Genwa Samhat told told the media that the sit-in, two days before the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, "calls for the abolition of this section of law dating from the [1920-1943] French mandate in Lebanon".
"Most people arrested under this law aren't detained in the act, but in the street because of their appearance," she said.
While Lebanon is considered more tolerant of LGBT issues than other Arab states, police still stage regular raids on nightclubs and other venues frequented by gay folk.
In the mean time another event on Sunday organised by the pro-LGBT Proud Lebanon group was cancelled because of threats from local Christian religious authorities.