36 men were arrested at the gay porn cinema and were forced to pay to undergo an anal probe exam, supposedly designed to determine whether the subject has have gay sex by detecting sperm. The practice is widely considered as torture as it is both painful and a violation of human dignity.
33 of the men have now been released on bail, though it remains to be seen whether they will face charges in the future.
It is believed the raid was in response to a feature on Joe Maalouf’s MTV show in late July, which specifically mentioned the porn cinema, and the fact that it is popular with gay men in the city.
It is not the first time that Maalouf has used his show, ironically titled “Enta Horr” (You’re Free), to publically share his homophobic beliefs. In May 2012 he ran segment containing undercover footage from gay cinemas that clearly identified men having sex with each other.
Lebanese gay rights group “Helem”, which is an Arabic acronym for “Lebanese Protection for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders” has spoken out against the action. George Azzi, co-founder of the group, who pubically outed Maalouf on Facebook earlier this year said: “Because of him 36 individual most of them are much less privileged than him and completely dependent on their families were outed in a very ugly way.
‘He gives himself the right to live his life because he can afford it while denying it to others. I am aware of the risks I took by doing so, but the idea is not to out someone but rather exposing his hypocrisy to deny him the ability to spread hatred.”
Same-sex acts are considered as “contradicting the laws of nature”, which is punishable by a year in prison under Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code.
Despite this, Lebanon is seen as one of Arab countries with more relaxed views on homosexuality, with journalist Michael J. Totten, an author at the website World Affairs saying: “I wouldn’t describe Lebanon as a bastion of gay rights, but it’s much more advanced than anywhere else in the Arab world. Homosexuality is still technically illegal there, but I’ve met a number of out gay Lebanese in Beirut, and the city has a number of gay and gay-friendly night clubs.”