Iraq is being urged to drop proposed legislation that could result in those found guilty of “same-sex conduct” being put to death.
Iraqi independent politician Raad Al-Maliki introduced amendments to the “Law on Combatting Prostitution” on 15 August that would make same-sex relations a criminal offence – punishable by either the death penalty or life in prison.
Anyone found “promoting homosexuality” would be sentenced to a minimum of seven years in prison, as well as a substantial fine.
Now, a group of charities, including human rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), have urged the Iraqi government to rescind the law.
“Iraq’s proposed anti-LGBT law would threaten the lives of Iraqis already facing a hostile environment,” said Rasha Younes, an LGBT rights researcher for HRW.
“Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable,” she added.
Same-sex intimacy is not currently outlawed in Iraq. However, authorities have used loopholes in so-called morality clauses to prosecute LGBTQ+ people.
Additionally, directives issued by the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission ordered news outlets to replace the term “homosexuality” with “sexual deviance,” which has fanned the flames of discrimination in the country.
Iraq government ‘fuels violence and discrimination’
The amendments would codify same-sex relations as “sexual perversion,” which the government defines as “repeated sexual relations between members of the same sex… if occurring more than three times.”
It also prohibits gender-affirming care, which it calls “sex change” based on personal desire. Attempts to change gender identity would be punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.
The punishment also applies to medical practitioners who administer gender-affirming care or perform gender-affirming surgery.
An exception is made for intersex individuals who require surgical intervention that confirms biological sex, but only categorises male and female.
“The Iraqi government has failed to tackle discriminatory practices that underpin violence against LGBT people,” Younes continued. “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.”
A 2017-2022 World Values Survey found that just two per cent of Iraq citizens believe homosexuality to be justifiable, while 55 per cent find it unjustifiable.
Additionally, the community-based LGBTQ+ rights index Equaldex found Iraq to be one of the most homophobic countries in the world, coming 154th out of 197.