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Human Rights Watch Urges Repeal of Iraqi Anti-LGBT Law Which was was Approved on April 27, 2024 by Iraq Government

Human Rights Watch, Inc. (HRW), on Monday, urged the government to repeal a newly enacted Iraqi Anti-LGBT Law that criminalizes same-sex conduct and transgender expression, citing violations of fundamental human rights.

Overview of the Law

Passage Date: The Iraqi anti-LGBT law, an amendment to the existing Iraqi “Law on Combatting Prostitution,” was approved on April 27, 2024. It imposes severe penalties for same-sex relationships, gender-confirming medical procedures, “propaganda of homosexuality,” and male-to-female gender expression, all carrying lengthy prison terms. Despite previous drafts of similar laws, this one is notably stringent and has sparked widespread criticism from NGOs and national representatives.

Human Rights Watch’s Stance

Appeal for Repeal: HRW called upon Iraq to cease its infringement on LGBT rights and to revoke this legislation, which perpetuates discrimination and hostility towards LGBT individuals. Rasha Younes, interim LGBT rights director at HRW, condemned the law, stating:

“The Iraqi parliament’s passage of the anti-LGBT law rubber-stamps the Iraqi government’s appalling record of rights violations against LGBT people and is a serious blow to fundamental human rights. The law adds insult to injury for LGBT people in Iraq, who are already facing violence and threats to their lives.”

International Legal Framework

Protection under International Law: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees equal protection of human rights without discrimination. The UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed that sexual orientation is a protected status under this covenant, a principle also supported by the Arab Charter of Human Rights, of which Iraq is a signatory.

Also read: India’s LGBTQIA+ Community: Legal Wins Amid Societal Challenges

Context and Rising Hostility

Increasing Condemnation: Recent years have seen a surge in condemnation of  Iraqi Anti-LGBT Law, particularly from political groups aligned with armed factions. In August 2023, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) insisted on replacing the term “homosexuality” with “sexual deviance” in media content, reflecting a broader trend of intolerance.

Explanation of the Law

Anti-LGBT Law Amendment: The amendment, passed on April 27, 2024, as part of the Iraqi “Law on Combatting Prostitution,” significantly expands the scope of criminalization targeting LGBT individuals and expressions of gender identity.

Human Rights Watch’s advocacy underscores the urgency of addressing the discriminatory impact of this legislation and upholding the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

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