BEIRUT — A week after calling for a ban on the film "Barbie" in Lebanon, which he accused of "encouraging perversity and gender transformation," caretaker Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada announced on Wednesday that he signed a bill targeting "the promotion of sexual perversion."
The bill comes a few weeks after a previous one signed in July by nine MPs to repeal the article of the penal code that criminalizes what is described as "unnatural relations," an allusion to same-sex relationships. On Tuesday, MP Adib Abdel Massih announced he had decided to withdraw his signature from the bill, citing his religious convictions.
The bill signed by Mortada still has to be approved by the reunited government before being sent to Parliament to be voted on by the General Assembly.
"Lebanon is facing an attack that, if it succeeds, God forbid, will have the worst impact on society and future generations," Mortada said in a statement reported by the state-run National News Agency. In particular, he accused "entities... that work under the guise of non-governmental organizations to promote perversion and sexual reassignment, and present them as natural in accordance with standards of modernity and social progress."
He went on to point out that "Articles 9 and 10 of the Constitution require the state to respect religious values and prohibit any teaching contrary to these moral values" and that "Christianity and Islam condemn sexual perversion that goes against the Creator."
Pope Francis has repeatedly declared that homosexuality is not a crime.
Three years' imprisonment
In Mortada's bill, the first article punishes "any act that favors, explicitly or implicitly, sexual relations against nature, or that encourages or incites them" with a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine of LL500 million.
Article 534 of the Penal Code criminalizes any so-called "unnatural" relationship, punishable by one year's imprisonment and used against LGBTQ+ people.
According to the second article of the bill, "any act which promotes the possibility of changing sex or publishes information aimed at minors which makes them want to change their sex or sexual orientation, will be punishable by up to three years' imprisonment or a fine of five hundred million lira."
The bill also punishes "any act which encourages the sexual abuse of children by any means whatsoever."
The text provides in each article that "if the criminal act is committed by a person in public office, his legal immunity is forfeited, he will be prosecuted, charged and tried and both penalties are doubled."
Mortada vs. Daou
Last Saturday, Mohammad Mortada and Forces of Change MP Marc Daou engaged in a heated debate on a bill signed by Daou and others, aimed at repealing the article of the penal code criminalizing homosexuality.
A former judge with close ties to Hezbollah and the Amal movement, the Minister had once again invoked the two articles of the Lebanese Constitution to justify his position against what he described as "sexual perversion."