Gay rights in Iraq

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The Republic of Iraq had a policy of treating homosexuality as a criminal offense under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. It is unclear how the Iraq war and the subsequent Iraqi legislative elections will affect the legal status of LGBT Iraqis.


[edit] Criminal code

Until 2001 the Iraqi criminal code was silent about the topic of homosexuality. In the first few years of the Iraqi War, the only copy available (in English) of the Iraqi criminal code is from 1988. However, the Iraqi Special Tribunal has recently published a good English translation of the 1969 Iraqi Criminal Code and the 1972 Civil Code. The following provisions in the criminal code appear to be applicable, although translations from Arabic into English can be tricky.

  • Paragraph 111 - He who discovers his wife, one of his female relatives committing adultery or a male relative engaged in sodomy and kills, wounds or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty.[citation needed]
  • Paragraph 215 - Any person who produces, imports, exports or obtains a picture, written material or sign with intent to trade, distribute, display or exhibit such material, which, by its nature, endangers the public security or brings the country into disrepute unless he was acting in good faith is punishable by detention plus a fine not exceeding 300 Dinars or by one of those penalties
  • Chapter 7 Section 7 Paragraph 368 - Any person who willfully commits an act which spreads a dangerous disease that endangers the lives of others is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 3 years. The punishment is 1 year if it is ruled to be accidental.
  • Chapter 8 Section 4 Paragraph 376 - Any person who obtains a marriage certificate knowing it to be invalid for any reason in secular or canonical law and any person who issues such certificate knowing the marriage to be invalid is punishable by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 7 years or by detention.
  • Chapter 8 Section 3 Paragraph 401 - Any person who commits an immodest act in public is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 6 months plus a fine not exceeding 50 dinars or by one of those penalties.
  • Chapter 8 Section 3 Paragraph 402 - (a) Any person who makes indecent advances to another man or woman shall be punished by a period of detention not exceeding 3 months plus a fine not exceeding 30 dinars. The penalty will be a period of detention not exceeding 6 months plus a fine not exceeding 100 dinars if the offender, having been previously convicted for such offense, re offends within a year of the date of such conviction.
  • Chapter 8 Paragraph 403 - Any person who produces, imports, publishes, possesses, obtains or translates a book, printed or other written material, drawing, picture, film, symbol or other thing that violates the public integrity or decency with intent to exploit or distribute such material is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 2 years plus a fine not exceeding 200 dinars or by one of those penalties. Also applies to those people that advertise such material or media.
  • Chapter 8 Paragraph 404 - Any person who himself or through some mechanical means sings or broadcasts in a public place obscene or indecent songs or statements is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 1 year or by a fine not exceeding 100 dinars.
  • Paragraph 434 - Insult is the imputation to another of something dishonorable or disrespectful or the hurting of his feelings even though it does not include an imputation to him of a particular matter. Any person who insults another is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 1 year plus a fine not exceeding 100 dinars.
  • Paragraph 438 - The following persons are punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 1 year plus a fine not exceeding 100 dinars or by one of those penalties: (1) Any person who publishes in any way a picture, remark or information in respect of the private or family life of another, even though such information is true and such publication causes him offense.
  • Paragraph 501 - Any person who washes themselves in a city, town or village in an indecent manner or appears in a public place in an indecent state of undress is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 10 days or by a fine not exceeding 5 Dinars.
  • Chapter 5 Paragraph 502 - Any person who loiters in a public place or observes such a place with indecent intent or for an indecent purpose is punishable by a period of detention not exceeding 10 days or by a fine not exceeding 5 dinars.

In 2001 Amnesty International reported that the "Revolutionary Command Council, the highest executive body in the country, issued a decree to provide the death penalty for the offenses of prostitution, homosexuality, incest and rape."<ref></ref> It is believed that sudden usage of the death penalty was tied to a desire by Saddam Hussein to win the support of Iraqi Islamic conservatives.

The reversal of the criminal code back to its original 1969 status means that this 2001 provision no longer exists. However, other laws could be used to treat homosexuality as a criminal offense, and several militias have been tied to the kidnapping and murder of gay Iraqis.

On February 5th, 2005 the IRIN issued a reported titled "Iraq: Male homosexuality still a taboo." The article stated, among other things that honor killings by Iraqis against a gay family member are common and given some legal protection. The article also stated that the 2001 amendment to the criminal code stipulating the death penalty for homosexuality "has not been changed", even through Paul Bremer clearly ordered the criminal code to go back to its original 1969 edition.<ref></ref>

In March, 2005 a rally was held in the United Kingdom, where speakers for the Iraqi Organizations For Women's Freedom opposed efforts by Iraqi religious parties to introduce Sharia law into Iraq<ref></ref> and some mention was made that Sharia law would mean the death of women's rights along with the rights of gays and non-Muslims in Iraq. This Iraqi feminist organization is supported by the Iraqi Workers-Communist Party, but neither organizations will talk about gay rights issues in Iraq or answer inquires from foreigners about the issue.

The Iraqi Committee For Personal Privacy and Freedom has an online website that does supports some gay rights issues but it is unclear how big this new Committee might be. A similar orgaization called the Iraqi Scientific Humanitarian Committee also exists online and claims to be an Iraqi gay rights organization.

On August 5th 2005 the IRIN issued a report on the rise of male teenage prostitution in Iraq, and the strong moral opposition to homosexuality in general.<ref></ref> The report seems to suggest that even absent a specific criminal prohibition the parents or relatives of a Iraqi homosexual may try to kill them.

The United States Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq has been overseeing the Iraqi armed forces training and discipline and seems to have been interpreting Paragraph 402 as only applying to rape. This Command has also drafted a new military code for Iraq that will be introduced sometime after the Iraqi election.<ref></ref> It is unknown if the new military code will bar Iraqi homosexuals from military service or make homosexual acts a crime under military law.

Since 2005 there have been reports that the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's "Badr Corps" has been involved in death march campaigns against LGBT Iraqis citizens, and that they have gotten support for such polices by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani<ref></ref>

This is partly due to a fatwa issued in October, 2005 by Iranian-born Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, published on the Arabic portion of his homepage, stating that homosexuality and lesbianism are both "forbidden" and that they should be "Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”<ref></ref> While the fatwa for male homosexuality was removed from the website in May, 2006, it was not revoked. The fatwa for female homosexuality is still on the website.

Also in March of that same year, a Canadian peace activist named James Loney was kidnapped by an Iraqi militia and his family and the Canadian government kept his sexual orientation a secret for fear that his kidnappers would kill him.<ref></ref>

[edit] Saddam regime: opposition and tolerance

Reports about the treatment of Iraqi homosexuals during the rule of the Ba'athist Party oftentimes seem to conflict with each other, and what little information does exist is from the 1990s.

In the 1990s the Iraqi representatives to the United Nations opposed having the body address gay rights concerns or give consultative status to international gay rights organizations, on religious grounds. Some recent reports from the United Nations have said that Saddam Iraqi security forces would often harass and abuse Iraqi gays, and that honor killings of gay family memberes were tolerated, and still are.

Yet, some reports from Iraqis have suggested that an active gay nightlife was tolerated by the Ba'athist government, including nightclubs and annual events with transgendered people, and that even homosexual prostitution was generally overlooked by the regime in the 1990s, at the most being something that incurred brief jail time and a small fine.<ref></ref>

[edit] 2003 - 2004

The regime change, efforts at reconstruction, and ongoing civil war make it difficult to determine the current legal status of homosexuality in Iraq.

When Coalition Provisional Authority chief executive Paul Bremer took control of Iraq in 2003 he issued a series of decrees that restored the Iraqi criminal code back to its original 1969 edition, abolished the death penalty (which the new formed Iraqi government restored in 2005), and removed most restrictions on free speech and assembly.

However, a 2004 article in the New York Times noted that homosexuality is still a crime in Iraq ("Killings Surge in Iraq, and Doctors See a Procession of Misery" by Alex Berenson, September 26, 2004);

  • "Besides doing autopsies, the doctors at the institute specialize in the examinations of women accused by their husbands of not being virgins when they married, a serious charge that can lead to an annulment. The doctors also examine men accused of homosexuality, a criminal offense in Iraq. They must also approve all marriages of girls 14 or younger, verifying that they have reached puberty and are physically capable of intercourse."

It is unclear, from the article, the context in which homosexuality is a crime or based on what part of the 1969 criminal code is being invoked. The Iraqi Interim Governing Council did enact a Resoultion (soon repealed) giving Iraqi Muslim Courts of Personal Status more authority to settle disputes dealing with marriage, family and other religious matters and it is possible that homosexuality is being treated as a crime under Islamic Personal Status courts, although a English translation of the current Iraqi Law for Personal Status is not available online.

[edit] Iraqi elections of 2004

Some of the insurgents in Iraq released a statement claiming that they were resorting to violence to prevent gay marriage from being legalized in Iraq. Yet, none of the Iraqi political parties took an official policy stand on gay rights issues. Only the Workers Communist Party of Iraq had a 1994 document (since removed) from their official home page that called for the legalization of sexual relations between consenting adults in private and for the government to ensure that adults have access to devices (i.e. condoms) to stop the spread of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. In response to foreign inquiries, the Iraqi "Pro-Democracy" Party remarked that none of the political parties have any interest in gay rights, and that no one in Iraq seemed to be interested in gay rights.

Few people in Iraq seem to have any interest in talking about gay rights issues, although the issue will likely arise as part of a larger debate in the republic over the role of Islamic law.

[edit] New Iraqi Constitution

Early drafts (in English) of the Iraqi constitution that shall be submitted to the Iraqi citizens for approval contain a provision that asserts that none of the rights or liberties protected in the Constitution will apply to "deviants."

Later revisions of the Iraqi Constitution appear to have remove the deviants clause, but have several clauses throughout the document that assert that Islam will be the foundation of the law and that the various civil liberties shall be limited by "public morality", i.e. Islam.

[edit] 2005 - 2006

An exile association of LGBT Iraqis has been working with the British human rights organization, OutRage!, to make the international community more aware of the anti-gay death squad campaign.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


  • September 26, 2004 "Killings Surge in Iraq, and Doctors See a Procession of Misery" by Alex Berenson. Published in the New York Times.

[edit] Legal resources

[edit] External links

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