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Lebanon moves to ban ‘Barbie’ film as anti-LGBTQ sentiment rages

Lebanon’s culture minister seeks to ban “Barbie” movie, claiming it promotes homosexuality.

Amid rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment, the move sparks debate in the more liberal Middle Eastern nation.



BEIRUT, LEBANON — Lebanon’s culture minister said Wednesday he had asked authorities to ban hit movie “Barbie” for purportedly “promoting homosexuality”, as anti-LGBTQ rhetoric soars in one of the Middle East’s more liberal countries.

“It was decided… to send a request to Lebanon’s General Security agency… to take all necessary measures to ban showing this movie in Lebanon,” Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada said in a statement.

The film “promotes homosexuality and transsexuality… supports rejecting a father’s guardianship, undermines and ridicules the role of the mother, and questions the necessity of marriage and having a family,” he said.

The film, which has topped US$1 billion in global revenues, was due to be screened in Lebanese cinemas from 31 August.

Though it was widely anticipated by LGBTQ communities worldwide, the film does not contain any overt references to same-sex relationships or queer themes.

Lebanon’s move comes amid a growing anti-LGBTQ campaign, spearheaded by Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, and as LGBTQ activists have been pushing to decriminalise same-sex relations.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has called for a boycott of rainbow products and said last month that gay people, “even if they do it once… are to be killed”.

While Lebanon is generally considered more tolerant of sexual diversity than other Arab countries, the police regularly raid gay bars and other LGBTQ-friendly spaces.

Lebanese law currently allows courts to punish “unnatural” sexual relations with up to one year in prison.

The country’s LGBTQ community in 2018 scored a success when a court ruled that same-sex conduct was not unlawful, but since then it has seen more setbacks than victories.

Last year, a crackdown saw activists harassed and Pride gatherings cancelled after the interior ministry instructed security forces to clamp down on events “promoting sexual perversion”.

The ministry argued that LGBTQ events violated customs, traditions and “principles of religion” in Lebanon, where political power is split between Shiite and Sunni Muslim, Christian, Druze and other groups.

“Barbie” has been banned in Vietnam over a scene with a fictitious world map criticised for allegedly showing China’s claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines allowed the film to be shown — but asked that the map be blurred.

The film’s release was delayed in Pakistan’s Punjab province over “objectionable content”, officials said last month, though they did not clarify which content was “objectionable”, nor why.


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