Iraq has implemented a severe new law targeting the LGBTQ+ community, which criminalises same-sex relationships and imposes harsh penalties on those found guilty.

Under this legislation, individuals engaged in same-sex activities could face imprisonment ranging from 10 to 15 years.

The law extends its scope to the transgender community as well, penalising those who alter their “biological gender” or adopt effeminate attire, as per a report by the Independent. Previously, Iraq was among the few Islamic countries where gay sex was not explicitly illegal. However, existing morality clauses in the penal code were often exploited to harass LGBTQ+ people.


Officially known as the Law on Combating Prostitution and Homosexuality, it was enacted on 27 April. The law is a response to what it describes as efforts to “protect Iraqi society from moral depravity and the increasing global endorsements of homosexuality”.

The crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community isn’t new in Iraq. For instance, in August 2023, Iraqi authorities mandated that media outlets refrain from using terms like “homosexual” or “gender”, substituting them with “sexual deviancy”.

In a softened stance compared to earlier proposals, which included the death penalty for homosexual acts, the law now stipulates less severe penalties after revisions influenced by international pressures from the US and Europe.

Moreover, the law targets those supporting LGBTQ+ rights, with penalties of up to seven years in prison for anyone promoting homosexuality. Transgender individuals face slightly milder consequences, with potential imprisonment of one to three years for changing their gender presentation or dressing in an effeminate way.

The legislation has been met with global outrage, including a critical statement from the US State Department, which highlighted the risks it poses to the most vulnerable groups in Iraq, potentially restricting freedom of speech and affecting the work of NGOs.

Violence against LGBTQ+ individuals has been rising, as evidenced by the February murder of a trans blogger named “Simsim” in the Al-Qadisiyah governorate, reported by Shafaq News. The 28-year-old was fatally stabbed multiple times in Diwaniyah.

Rasha Younes, the deputy director of the LGBTQ+ rights program at Human Rights Watch, condemned the law, stating it cements the country’s “appalling record of rights violations against LGBT people” and significantly undermines fundamental human rights.