Sexuality, Development and Non-conforming Desire in the Arab World: The Case of Lebanon and Egypt

Evidence Report (IDS)
Authors: 
Mohamed, M.S.
Publisher: 
Institute of Development Studies (IDS)
Publication date: 
Wednesday, 28 October, 2015

This report argues that neither Egypt nor Lebanon can be said to offer social or legal environments that are supportive of sexual and gender nonconformists (SGNs) – at least not at the present time. With the exception of restricted local efforts, there are no signs of an imminent change to the social or legal standing of SGNs in Egypt. In Lebanon, the emergence of pro-LGBT organisations has been a crucial step in their fight for social and legal rights and can be said to have led to a shift in attitudes towards some SGNs. This shift is interpreted as a product of socio-political factors that have been favourable to the introduction and emergence of new subjectivities in Lebanon. The discrimination experienced by SGNs in both countries has proven detrimental to the wellbeing of the individuals concerned and the broader societies in which they live. But promoting safety and freedom for SGNs that relies on their conflation with SGNs in the West – or representing SGN behaviour as antithetical to long-established cultural and religious values – is likely to give an inaccurate representation of SGNs in the region and their struggles. This, in turn, overshadows the harms caused by discriminating against SGNs and further alienates them from society. The report argues that it is important to invalidate the hierarchical view of development, which obscures the close links between sexuality and other, more popular issues. 

  • Neither Egypt nor Lebanon can be said to offer social or legal environments that are supportive of sexual and gender nonconformists (SGNs) – at least not at the present time.
  • Lebanese police and judiciary continue to target SGNs, particularly those from the most disadvantaged parts of society. However, some of Lebanon’s SGNs can now count on the social and legal backing of a steadily growing pro-SGN circle.
  • Egypt still retains its colonial-era laws regulating sex.
  • Although Egypt’s Constitution does not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, the state’s harassment of SGNs clearly contradicts Articles 58 and 57 of the current constitution.
Opendocs reference: 
oai:opendocs.ids.ac.uk:123456789/7115