“Trans Women’s Navigation of Arrest and Detention in Beirut: A Case Study”

October 30, 2014

On the 30th of October, Lebanon Support organized a roundtable discussion about a draft of study on Transwomen’s Navigation of Arrest and Detention in Beirut. This event was the first of a series of roundtable discussion designed to disseminate papers and research published on our online platform the CSKC (Civil Society Knowledge Centre) and to stimulate debate within civil society spheres in Lebanon.

The discussion was between the authors of the study, Mr. Ahmad Saleh, epidemiology specialist and activist in many civil society organizations, Ms. Adriana Qubaia, a PhD candidate in the department of Gender Studies in the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and Me Youmna Makhklouf, a lawyer and a PhD candidate in Law and a member of Legal Agenda Organization.

The session discussed a study made by Mr. Ahmad Saleh, Ms. Adriana Qubaia on transwomen’s detention and economical marginalization in the political context of Lebanon regarding the Lebanese penal law. The study was based on interviews with five transwomen on the circumstances of their detention.

The panelists discussed the new forms of police surveillance that lead to the arrest of transgender people due to an on-going police campaign that extended the definition of security concerns to include the policing of social activities and moral principles. This phenomenon was observed in several neighborhoods of Beirut.

Furthermore, they presented transwomen in daily situations leading to policing, detention and subsequently arrest. In police departments, they encounter unprofessionalism and intentional neglect from the officials. It appeared that transwomen are likely to get longer detention span it is more difficult for them to navigate their detention and release.

The participants also discussed the penal law in detail, highlighting its gaps and its application concerning the transpersons’ caption and the following lawsuits. Another law issue concerns their sex reassignment procedure from the operations and hormone therapy to the consecutive legal procedures that the Lebanese law and its institutions still cannot handle effectively.

Another concern was linked to the process of sorting the detainees into sex-segregated cells, or whether the police should take into account the person’s declared gender, or the gender assigned as on the ID.

According to the study, the transwomen are more likely to stay intentionally longer in detention and face difficulties during the process of release. It also turned out that these women are often involved in sex work being their sole accessible income source. The researchers eventually stressed, regarding the ongoing debate about the criminalization of sex work, that this would only push these women into further poverty making them more vulnerable to detention and arrest.