Metro Weekly

Gays in Iraq Can Now Be Jailed for 15 Years

A new law in Iraq could see gay people imprisoned for up to 15 years for same-sex relations and 7 years for pro-LGBTQ advocacy.

Country of Iraq against Iraqi flag background. – Illustration: luzitanija, via 123rf

Iraq’s parliament has passed a law that imposes harsh prison sentences on people who are openly LGBTQ or advocate for LGBTQ rights.

The so-called “Law on Combating Prostitution and Homosexuality,” which was part of a series of amendments to a decades-old law criminalizing prostitution, was adopted with support from 170 out of 329 members of parliament.

Most of the votes came from members of highly conservative Shia Muslim parties.

The law also punishes pro-LGBTQ advocacy and expressions of allyship.

Any individual, business, or non-governmental organization can be sentenced for “promoting” homosexuality — though what constitutes “promoting” is extremely vague — for up to seven years in jail and a fine of no less than 10 million dinars ($7,600).

A previous version of the law, which failed to pass, would have gone further and imposed the death penalty for same-sex relations.

Although homosexuality is taboo in Iraqi society, there was no law explicitly criminalizing homosexuality or same-sex conduct prior to the law’s passage.

Human rights groups and Western governments have roundly condemned the law, with the British Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, calling it “dangerous and worrying.”

“No one should be targeted for who they are,” Cameron wrote on X. “We encourage the Government of Iraq to uphold human rights and freedoms of all people without distinction.”

The U.S. State Department criticized the law, which it said in a statement “threatens constitutionally protected human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It also expressed concerns that the law would be abused or manipulated to “hamper free speech and expression and inhibit the operations of [non-governmental organizations] across Iraq.”

“The legislation also weakens Iraq’s ability to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment,” the statement continued. “International business coalitions have already indicated that such discrimination in Iraq will harm business and economic growth in the country.”

On April 28, a group of Iraqi lawmakers launched a campaign to expel U.S. Ambassador Alina Romanowski, accusing her of interfering in the country’s internal affairs after she issued a statement condemning the legislation.

Rasha Younes, a senior researcher with the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, told the AP that the law’s passage “rubber-stamps Iraq’s appalling record of rights violations against LGBT people and is a serious blow to fundamental human rights.”

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