Iraq enacts anti-LGBT+ law imposing severe penalties

By Esther Muhozi
On 29 April 2024 at 01:25

Iraq has enacted a comprehensive anti-LGBT+ law that outlaws same-sex relationships, subjecting homosexual individuals to potential prison terms of up to 15 years if found guilty.

The legislation, approved by Iraq’s parliament on Saturday, claims to "safeguard Iraqi society against moral corruption and the widespread advocacy of homosexuality."

Titled the Law on Combating Prostitution and Homosexuality, it aims to maintain the Islamic nation’s religious values by making same-sex relationships illegal in Iraq, with penalties ranging from 10 to 15 years in prison.

The statute also penalizes those who "promote" homosexuality or prostitution with a minimum of seven years in prison. Initially, the bill included a death penalty for same-sex acts, but this was omitted following an amendment due to significant pressure from the United States and European countries.

Furthermore, the law mandates a prison term of one to three years for anyone who alters their "biological gender" or adopts effeminate attire.

The legislation received strong backing from conservative Shia Muslim factions that lead the largest coalition in the Iraqi parliament, although it faced severe criticism from the international community and human rights organizations.

The US State Department expressed concerns, stating, "This amendment endangers the most vulnerable in Iraqi society. It could restrict free speech and expression and hinder the activities of NGOs throughout Iraq."

Rasha Younes, the deputy director of the LGBT+ rights program at Human Rights Watch, remarked: "The passage of this anti-LGBT law by the Iraqi parliament confirms Iraq’s dreadful record of rights abuses against LGBT individuals and represents a significant setback to fundamental human rights."

Previously, Iraq was one of the few Islamic countries that had not explicitly outlawed gay sex, though vague moral provisions in its penal code were still used to target LGBT+ individuals.

Violence against community members, including killings by armed groups and individuals, has also occurred.

According to Our World in Data, over 60 countries worldwide criminalize gay sex.

Shia Muslim followers practice self-flagellation on top of a banner spread out on the ground, which displays the Pride rainbow flag marred by a boot print and includes the Arabic message "no to homosexual society" in Nasiriyah, Iraq (AFP/Getty).