Iraq criminalises same-sex relationships with harsh prison sentences

Iraq’s parliament passed a bill on Saturday criminalising same-sex relations, which will receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, in a move rights groups condemned as an “attack on human rights”.

Transgender people will be sentenced to three years’ jail under the amendments to a 1988 anti-prostitution law, which were adopted during a session attended by 170 out of 329 lawmakers.

A previous draft had proposed capital punishment for same-sex relations, in what campaigners had called a “dangerous” escalation.

The new amendments enable courts to sentence people engaging in same-sex relations to between 10 to 15 years in prison, according to the document seen by AFP, in the country where gay and transgender people already face frequent attacks and discrimination.

They also set a minimum seven-year prison term for “promoting” same-sex relations and a sentence ranging from one to three years for men who “intentionally” act like women.

The amended law makes “biological sex change based on personal desire and inclination” a crime and punishes transgender people and doctors who perform gender-affirming surgery with up to three years in prison.

Homosexuality is taboo in Iraq’s conservative society, however there had not previously been a law that explicitly punished same-sex relations.

Members of Iraq’s LGBTQ community have been prosecuted for sodomy or under vague morality and anti-prostitution clauses in Iraq’s penal code.

The amendments also ban organisations that “promote” homosexuality and punish “wife swapping” with a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.

“It is an internal matter and we do not accept any interference in Iraqi affairs.”

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