Iraq: Gay death penalty bill proposed



The Parliament of Iraq is poised to consider a bill that would establish the death penalty as punishment for same-sex conduct and introduce imprisonment for transgender individuals.

On 15 August, Raad Al-Maliki, an independent member of parliament, introduced the bill which would amend the “Law on Combating Prostitution,” No. 8 of 1988.

The bill seeks to explicitly criminalise same-sex relations and transgender expression.

Drastic Penalties for Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Expression

Human Rights Watch, which has reviewed the bill, said it equates same-sex relations with “sexual perversion,” which it defines as “repeated sexual relations between members of the same sex … if occurring more than three times.”

The law also provides for seven years in prison and a fine between 10 million Iraqi dinars (US$7,700) and 15 million dinars ($11,500) for “promoting homosexuality,” which is undefined.

The bill specifically targets transgender women, with a prison term between one and three years or with a fine between 5 million dinars ($3,800) and 10 million dinars ($7,700) for anyone who “imitates women.”

The law defines “imitating women” as “wearing makeup and women’s clothing” or “appearing as women” in public spaces.

The bill prohibits hormone replacement therapy and what it calls “sex change”, as well as any attempt to change one’s gender identity, punishable by prison terms between one and three years.

Hostile Environment for LGBTQ+ People

“Iraq’s proposed anti-LGBT law would threaten the lives of Iraqis already facing a hostile environment for LGBT people,” said Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable.”

Though consensual same-sex conduct is not explicitly criminalised in Iraq, the authorities have typically used vague “morality” laws to prosecute LGBT people.

The introduction of the anti-LGBTQ+ bill comes after months of escalating hostility towards sexual and gender minorities within Iraq.

Human Rights Watch points out that violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals are already widespread in Iraq. Armed groups have been known to commit lethal violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, and online targeting of this community is also prevalent.

On 8 August, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued a directive ordering all media outlets to replace the term “homosexuality” with “sexual deviance” and banning the use of the term “gender.”

“The Iraqi government has failed to tackle discriminatory practices that underpin violence against LGBT people,” Younes said. “Instead it has promoted anti-LGBT ‘morality’-based legislation that fuels violence and discrimination against already marginalised sexual and gender minorities. The Iraqi government should immediately abandon the proposed anti-LGBT law and end the cycle of violence and impunity against LGBT people.”

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