HELEM: A Case Study of the First Legal, Above-Ground LGBT Organisation in the MENA Region
World Health Organization (WHO)
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS)
Gender Equity Network
LGBT & Sexual Rights, Human Rights & Protection
Study and/or Report
Helem is the first and only above-ground LGBT organisation in the MENA region. Founded in 2004 and based in Beirut, Lebanon, Helem is a rights-based organisation that focuses on advocating and lobbying for the legal and social rights of people with alternative sexuality. Helem seeks an end to the criminalization of, stigmatization and discrimination against MSM and all LGBT individuals. Additionally, Helem has become a key player in outreach HIV prevention proj- ects with MSM in Lebanon, often conducted in cooperation with the National AIDS Control Program (NAP), other NGOs and UN agencies. It has been realized through Helem’s experiences that having an NGO dedicated to the MSM and LGBT communities is an important step in attempting to decrease the risk of transmission of HIV among this population.
Helem is considered a legal organisation, but does not have official government backing. At present, Helem has about 40 active LGBT members, plus more than 1000 supporters from the general population. Among the activities that Helem has been organizing are community outreach, social activities for the LGBT community, the development of support groups, research and development, publications and celebrating various events, including the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), Human Rights Day and the World AIDS Day.
Since the organisation began, they have had success in increasing their visibility, and affecting change in the attitudes of the media and general population toward the organization and toward the LGBT population. Helem has received financial support from non-governmental funding agencies, private donors and support groups. The organisation also receives indirect support from various other organisations.