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Baghdad – Iraq’s parliament approved a legislation that criminalizes same-sex relationships, imposing prison sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years. Additionally, transgender individuals could face imprisonment for one to three years under the new law.

Advocates of the legislation argue that the move was purportedly made to uphold religious values in their country. Specifically, the law is intended to “protect Iraqi society from moral depravity and the calls for homosexuality that have overtaken the world,” Reuters reports.

However, rights groups view these measures as exacerbating the country’s history of human rights violations against the LGBT community in Iraq. Indeed, for many years, LGBT Iraqis have endured persecution, including instances of rape, torture, and homicide, as documented by human rights organizations.

Individuals who advocate for homosexuality or prostitution, as well as medical professionals who perform gender reassignment surgeries, men who “intentionally act like women,” and those who participate in “wife swapping,” will all be subject to imprisonment under the newly enacted legislation.

Specifically, the law stipulates a minimum prison sentence of seven years for individuals involved in the promotion of homosexuality or prostitution. Moreover, it enforces penalties ranging from one to three years of imprisonment for individuals who undergo gender reassignment or choose to present themselves in an effeminate manner.

Initially, the bill, which amends an existing anti-prostitution law from the late 1980s, proposed the death penalty for same-sex relationships. However, due to objections from the US and other Western nations, this provision was revised.

Speaking to Shafaq News on Saturday, MP Amir al-Maamouri said that the new law was “a significant step in combating sexual deviancy given the infiltration of unique cases contradicting Islamic and societal values.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department expressed concern over the passing of the law reforms in a statement, citing them as a threat to human rights and freedom. Additionally, it emphasized that such legislation could hinder Iraq’s economic diversification and deter foreign investment. The statement further noted that international business coalitions had warned that discrimination in Iraq could adversely affect business activities and economic development in the nation.

“The legislation also weakens Iraq’s ability to diversify its economy and attract foreign investment,” the statement said. “International business coalitions have already indicated that such discrimination in Iraq will harm business and economic growth in the country.”

Further, UK Secretary of State Lord David Cameron expressed grave concern over the amendments, describing them as “dangerous and worrying.” Taking to X, formerly Twitter, he emphasized the importance of not targeting individuals based on their identity. He urged the Government of Iraq to uphold human rights and ensure the freedom of all individuals without discrimination. “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.” Read more here and here.

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