Iraq’s Media and Communications Commission (CMC) has issued new directives to media outlets and social media platforms in a contentious move that bans the use of the terms “homosexual” and “gender.”
The authorities have instructed media to refer to LGBTQ+ people as engaging in “sexual deviancy” rather than using the term “homosexuality.”
Furthermore, all phone and internet companies licensed within the country have been prohibited from using the word “gender.” Officials claim that this action protects societal values and maintains public order.
No specific penalties for noncompliance with these new directives have been released at the time of writing, but it is anticipated that fines may be imposed on violators.
The move comes amid an escalating climate of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in Iraq. While the nation’s laws do not explicitly criminalise homosexuality, vague morality clauses in the penal code enable the routine targeting of LGBTQ+ individuals on both institutional and domestic levels.
Recent legislative proposals are amplifying concerns about LGBTQ+ rights in the region. Last month, Mortada Al-Saadi, the committee’s deputy head on legal affairs, submitted a bill to parliament seeking to ban homosexuality, urging Council of Representatives speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi to include it on the September legislative session agenda.
Adding to the alarming trend, the Kurdistan regional government in Iraq has introduced a bill that, if enacted, would criminalise LGBTQ+ advocacy with penalties of up to one year in prison and a fine of five million dinars (NZD $6360).
Earlier this year, Rasan, the only human rights group in Kurdistan actively advocating for LGBTQ+ equality, was banned for “activities in the field of homosexuality,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Iraq’s position on LGBTQ+ rights is ranked 176th out of 197 countries on the Equality Index by LGBTQ+ community advocacy group Equaldex. Data from last year reveals a striking division in public opinion, with only 2% of the population expressing support for homosexuality and 55% opposing it.
These developments underscore the precarious state of LGBTQ+ rights in Iraq and signal a broader trend of increasing hostility and repression. Advocacy groups, human rights organisations, and international observers will likely continue to monitor the situation closely, as the implications of these new directives and proposed laws could have far-reaching consequences for LGBTQ+ individuals in the country.