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Passage of harsh anti-LGBTQ law in Iraq draws diplomatic backlash

WorldPassage of harsh anti-LGBTQ law in Iraq draws diplomatic backlash

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron called the law “dangerous and worrying”.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron. Photo: Reuters

Although homosexuality is taboo in the largely conservative Iraqi society, and political leaders have periodically launched anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns, Iraq did not previously have a law that explicitly criminalised it.

The law passed on Saturday with little notice as an amendment to the country’s existing anti-prostitution law. It imposes a sentence of 10 to 15 years for same-sex relations and a prison term of one to three years for people who undergo or perform gender-transition surgeries and for “intentional practice of effeminacy.”

It also bans any organisation that promotes “sexual deviancy”, imposing a sentence of at least seven years and a fine of no less than 10 million dinars (about US$7,600).

A previous draft version of the anti-prostitution law, which was ultimately not passed, would have allowed the death sentence to be imposed for same-sex relations.

Iraqi officials have defended the law as upholding societal values and portrayed criticisms of it as Western interference.

The acting Iraqi parliamentary speaker, Mohsen al-Mandalawi, said the vote was “a necessary step to protect the value structure of society” and to “protect our children from calls for moral depravity and homosexuality”.

Rasha Younes, a senior researcher with the LGBT Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch, said 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, including the rights to freedom of expression and association, privacy, equality, and nondiscrimination.”

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A report released by the organisation in 2022 accused armed groups in Iraq of abducting, raping, torturing, and killing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people with impunity and the Iraqi government of failing to hold perpetrators accountable.

A group of Iraqi lawmakers said on Sunday that they had launched a campaign to expel US ambassador Alina Romanowski, accusing her of interfering in the country’s internal affairs after she issued a statement condemning the legislation.

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Iraqis interviewed on Sunday expressed mixed views.

Baghdad resident Ahmed Mansour said he supports the legislation “because it follows the texts of the Quran and the Islamic religion by completely prohibiting this subject due to religious taboos.”

Hudhayfah Ali, another resident of Baghdad, said he is against it “because Iraq is a country of multiple sects and religions”.

“Iraq is a democratic country, so how can a law be passed against democracy and personal freedom?” he said.

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