Since its inception as the first LGBTQIA+ rights organization in Lebanon and the SWANA region, Helem has worked tirelessly to advocate for the removal of anti-LGBTQIA+ articles from the Lebanese penal code, including Articles 534, 531, 532, 533, 521, and other articles designed to criminalize and control queer bodies. Our work on decriminalization revolves around advocating with state and non-state institutions, human rights violations documentation, and research on the cost and harm produced by maintaining these laws and other related government policies and procedures. Our work also centers around creating and expanding a network of fully trained lawyers and paralegals who are able to advocate with and on behalf of detained queer individuals using the model defense against Article 534 jointly developed by Helem and the Legal Agenda.
Changing laws and
About Our Advocacy
Our work is closely derived from close connections with members of our own community, our allies, and from clear and compelling data which is made possible by our community outreach and our protection and services provision. We recognize that working intersectionally with other marginalized groups and issues requires great responsibility, flexibility, and strategic depth. We therefore work not only on issues related to identity and civil/political rights, but also prioritize social and economic rights by leveraging law, development, and community mobilization as tools for equality and liberation. We do not only ask "How do we improve institutions?" but more so, "How do we improve lives?". Our success is measured by how much we integrate queer issues and priorities into the greater civil, social, and economic movements in Lebanon and the region.
Our Advocacy Programming
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased overall online usage and traffic in the SWANA region, and with it incidents of hate speech, bullying, and discrimination that have translated regularly into incidents of outings, violence, and offline harm. Helem works on mitigating online harm by identifying bullying, harassment, and blackmail patterns on social media platforms and dating apps, as well as studying state surveillance of queer communities. Our main focus lies in identifying and contextualizing hate speech terms through the Arabic Queer Hate Speech Lexicon, a collaborative project between activists in 17 different countries in the SWANA region that amalgamates hate speech terms in multiple dialects of Arabic for integration into the algorithms of multiple social media platforms. The Lexicon is presented in both Arabic and English and is intended to be an annual document that is constantly revised and updated to reflect the contemporary evolution of language.
We work to mainstream LGBTQIA+ inclusion and equality across multiple spaces and sectors of service provision in Lebanon and the SWANA region. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that queer specific issues are respected, included, and adopted by influential institutions in government, media, civil society, and academia. We work to ensure that queer people can access spaces offering legal, social, educational, medical, and other forms of support and aid with safety and respect regardless of their SOGIESC. For this purpose, we have developed a series of specialized training modules for professionals in order to increase their knowledge and ability to serve LGBTQIA+ populations. This includes a large variety of service providers, including social workers, lawyers, physical and mental healthcare providers, aid workers, policymakers, and community mobilizers.
Helem works on engaging employers in order to reform and improve labor conditions for LGBTQIA+ workers across multiple industries, particularly small and medium enterprises and places where a majority of working class queer people are employed. Our workplace equality program seeks to understand barriers to inclusion for LGBTQIA+ people in the Lebanese labor force and works with a wide variety of stakeholders, including unions, syndicates, public and private sector institutions, and labor rights activists, to work towards the common interests of all workers in Lebanon.
Helem works on reforming the Lebanese labor law to abolish all forms of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals and to ensure protection for individuals facing discrimination based on SOGIESC. As part of the My Work My Rights network, we work intersectionally in alliance with other marginalized groups, including people with disabilities, migrant workers, refugees, women, and undocumented persons, to ensure all of our individual and collective needs and demands are clearly and exhaustively reflected in all labor reform efforts. As part of our advocacy on workers' rights, we also work to ensure inclusion and non discrimination in access to social security, health insurance, and access to justice for violations and discrimination in the workplace. Helem offers free legal referrals to individuals facing discrimination in the workplace and documents labor law violations against members of the community.
Through its community programming and multiple service provisions, Helem processes thousands of cases per year from individuals who have experienced incidents of discrimination against our civil, political, social, and economic rights. Helem ensures that any and all cases that come to our centers are documented and produces an annual LGBTQIA+ Rights Violations Report in order to inform and facilitate efforts to ensure justice and accountability against those committing these violations. Helem regularly uses this unique set of data to inform the media and human rights watchdogs, as well as lobby for reform with multiple actors on the national and international level, including the Lebanese National Human Rights Institute, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) through the Universal Periodic Review, Agenda 2030 through the High Level Political Forum at UNDP, multiple Treaty Bodies for Human Rights Conventions signed and ratified by Lebanon, and through regular engagement with the specialized mandates of multiple special rapporteurs and independent experts as part of the UN Special Procedures.
Campaigns & Advocacy Videos
We have finally reached the third part of the series #on_the_road.
As we are getting closer to #IDAHOBIT the International day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia, and Transphobia, we're sharing the final video that records our visits to #Deir_elqamar in #Chouf district and #Jezzine in #South_Lebanon.
It is clear that hatred towards members of the LGBT community can be handled by initiating discussions with residents to correct the misconceptions prevailing among some, confront the myths about members of the #LGBTQIA community, and transform this hatred into acceptance. In the end, building allies and improving our society to be more inclusive and supportive of the rights of all marginalized communities is an integral part of our fight to achieve our civil, political, economic, social, and bodily rights.
We arrived to #Beirut city, and talked with the residents of #Achrafieh and #Hamra, and with the passers-by of #Ain_El_Mraiseh. We initiated the discussion about the rights of the #LGBTQIA community in Lebanon and about parents' acceptance.Now is the time to open these conversations, to talk to people, to share the messages and experiences of LGBTQ people to as many citizens as possible, to correct misconceptions, to gather more allies, and to apply pressure with all other marginalized communities to reach social justice. #helem_on_the_roadSpecial thanks to the activists and volunteers who participated in this social experiment by writing their letters and sharing them with the public.
We at Helem, have always believed that the road to social justice and liberation for the LGBTQIA+ community in Lebanon will have to begin by opening the conversation with the people in different locations across the country. Our trip started from the capital of the North, Tripoli, the second-largest city in Lebanon, and Jbeil (Mount-Lebanon), one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. We carried with us letters written by volunteers and members of the community center at Helem for the residents of Tripoli, Jbeil, and other villages and cities. The volunteers' stories were meant to open up discussions on the rights of the #LGBTQIA community in Lebanon with the intention of countering false beliefs and eliminating stigma and shame.
To our parents, you have often reminded us that knowledge is the key to life and advancement. We tell you today that knowledge is also the key to acceptance... Come, let us introduce to you a topic you haven't seen from our perspective, issues, and subjects you haven't discussed freely with other people who share similar experiences with you.
Dear mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters of the LGBTQIA+ community in Lebanon, we welcome you to join Helem's Family Support Program. A group of family members just like you who come together and in the presence of specialists in sexuality and family support to talk about gender and sexuality, acceptance, and methods of supporting your child. Our goal is to provide you with accurate and credible information and to assist you in understanding your children without stigma or shame.
Enroll now, contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach us on our community What's App line: +961 - 70707757
We are at it again! Helem and Shaden have teamed up one more time to satirize, confront, and dismantle mythologies and stigma surrounding sexuality and the LGBTQ community in Lebanon - this time by also hitting the streets and asking the people what they thought about sex, homosexuality, conversion therapy, and relationships. The wildly popular Shakhra has become an anticipated yearly event and one of the most popular LGBTQ-related content ever produced regionally.
Scroll down to check last year's episode of Al-Shakhra Al-Ekhbariya
Our full liberation as queer people is not only dependent on our civil and political rights but also hinges on our ability to lead safe and sustainable lives and livelihoods. Following the events of 2020 and 2021, it has become clearer than ever that our ability and access to sustainable healthcare, housing, shelter, employment, and education is vital. This video seeks to reframe the conversation on LGBTQIA+ rights to centralize social and economic rights as fundamental pillars of queer liberation by exposing how LGBTQIA+ individuals in Lebanon struggle to meet their most basic needs.
On November 16 2020, the Global Conference on Media Freedom saw 36 out of 37 member states of the media freedom coalition sign the final statement expressing unanimous concern over the increased restrictions on media freedom which was evident in the use of restrictive laws, arbitrary surveillance, censorship, authoritarian intervention in the dissemination of information online, and the use of digital technology to restrict media freedom. The statement included a series of recommendations for the governments and called for free, accessible, and inclusive media that reflects marginalized communities including women and LGBTQIA individuals.
Lebanon was the only country that abstained from signing stating that its objection was due to a specific clause concerning LGBTQIA protection which it claimed contradicted current Lebanese laws. The Lebanese state’s abuse of laws that target the LGBTQIA+ community as an excuse to evade its international obligations to protect freedom of expression will not be tolerated and a coalition of activists convened to send this strong message to the government amidst a strong backlash against its decision.
Al-Shakhra Al-Ekhbariya or NewsRead is an annual critical show that is dedicated to presenting a satirical review of the year’s most misogynistic, sexist, racist, queer-phobic, homo-hateful, trans-hateful events taking place in Lebanon and in other South-West Asian and North-African countries. The show intends to confront prejudice with satire and sheds light on the absurd dialogue used by heads of states, government officials, and their mouthpieces in justifying their regimes’ destructive interference in the lives of marginalized communities.
The series is a joint creative production between Helem and Shaden Fakih, a trailblazing queer comedienne from Beirut who hosts the show and famously combines humor with activism. Throughout the show, Shaden breaks down myths and misconceptions and challenges Arab-speaking societies through frank and bold discussions on sexuality, gender, and politics. The content of the show that is usually prepared with the help of volunteers and members of Helem varies from the media’s discourse on LGBTQIA+ issues, political stunts, in addition to controversial social phenomena and religious topics.
On the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), Helem launched its campaign in May 2019 with the slogan #LoveWins. Part of the campaign was a video created and produced by Helem’s volunteers and staff that satirizes and exposes how the majority of media outlets in Lebanon and other Arab-speaking countries utilize their air-time to reinforce stigma on gender and sexual minorities. The video entitles ‘Only ignorance is abnormal’ targets media agencies, television programs, and regressive journalists who contribute towards stereotyping queer people, and preserving the status quo.
The campaign was released along with a list of posters as part of a collaboration with @Samandalcomics. Where a group of 13 incredible designers participated in the ‘Power- Bonds’ activity to celebrate love through art. check all 19 posters on Helem's social media pages.
In 2017 Helem launched "Homophobia is Terrorism" campaign which denounced the anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and attacks on LGBT groups by religious leaders in Lebanon including Dar el Fatwa, the Council of Islamic Scholars, and the Catholic Media Center.