Iraq passes law banning homosexuality with 15 years in prison

The Iraqi parliament has passed a law criminalising same-sex relationships with a maximum 15-year prison sentence, in a move it said aimed to uphold religious values.

The law adopted on Saturday aims to “protect Iraqi society from moral depravity and the calls for homosexuality that have overtaken the world,” according to its text.

The Law on Combating Prostitution and Homosexuality bans mandates at least seven years in prison for anybody who promotes homosexuality or prostitution.

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.

The bill had initially included the death penalty for same-sex acts but was amended before being passed after strong opposition from the United States and European nations.

It was backed mainly by Shia Muslim parties who form the largest coalition in Iraq’s parliament.

Lawmaker Raed al-Maliki, who advanced the amendments, told AFP that the law “serves as a preventive measure to protect society from such acts.”

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Major Iraqi parties have in the past year stepped up criticism of LGBTQ rights, with rainbow flags frequently being burned in protests by both governing and opposition Shia Muslim factions last year.

Western nations that still have heavy involvement in Iraq criticised the move and even threatened economic penalties.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the passing of the law reforms were a threat to human rights and freedoms.

“The legislation also weakens Iraq’s ability to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment,” it added.

“International business coalitions have already indicated that such discrimination in Iraq will harm business and economic growth in the country.”

And UK Secretary of State Lord David Cameron described the amendments as “dangerous and worrying.”

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

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