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Iraq to vote on bill including death penalty for same-sex acts

April 15, 2024 at 2:59 pm

Iraq Parliament in Baghdad, Iraq on October 13, 2022. [Iraqi Parliament Press Office – Anadolu Agency]

Iraqi lawmakers are set to vote on a bill that includes the death penalty or life in prison for same-sex relations, raising concern among rights groups and Western diplomats, who say its passage would harm Iraq’s political and economic ties, Anadolu Agency reports.

Parliament was in session on Monday with the bill, an amendment to an anti-prostitution law and second on its agenda.

It imposes life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone engaging in same-sex relations or anyone who swaps their wife with someone else’s for sexual purposes.

It also bans promotion of homosexuality and violations are punishable by at least seven years in prison.

Independent lawmaker, Ra’id Al-Maliki, told Reuters he expected the legislation to pass “because of its importance in preserving the authentic traditions of Iraqi society”.

Currently, mainly Muslim Iraq does not explicitly criminalise gay sex but loosely defined morality clauses in its penal code have been used to target LGBT people.

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

More than 60 countries criminalise gay sex, while same-sex sexual acts are legal in more than 130 countries, according to Our World in Data.

Diplomats from three Western countries said they had lobbied Iraqi authorities not to pass the bill due to human rights concerns but also because it would make working with Iraq politically difficult at a time when the country is trying to ease its international isolation after years of turmoil.

“It would be very difficult to justify working closely with such a state at home,” said one senior diplomat, who asked for anonymity due to the subject’s sensitivity.

“We were very, very direct: if this law is passed in its current form, it would have catastrophic consequences for our bilateral and business and trade relations.”

Parliament was in session to vote on the bill just hours before Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, was scheduled to meet US President, Joe Biden, in Washington on a trip heavily focused on pushing for more US investment.

When Uganda, in May 2023, enacted a law that includes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, the World Bank halted new lending to the East African nation and the US announced visa and travel restrictions against Ugandan officials.

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