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Article Iraq: Parliament Passes New Law Prohibiting Prostitution, Homosexuality, Gender Change Procedures

On April 27, 2024, The Iraqi House of Representatives (Iraq’s unicameral parliament) passed a  law amending Law No. 8 of 1988 on combating prostitution. According to a statement issued by the Iraqi House of Representatives, the law, which is titled “Law on Combating Prostitution and Homosexuality,” aims to preserve the entity of Iraqi society from moral decay and calls for homosexuality.” If signed by Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid, it will become law.

Law No. 8 of 1988 on Prostitution

Law No. 8 of 1988 criminalizes prostitution and makes it punishable by confinement  from three months to two years in a special institution designated for those convicted of prostitution. (Law No. 8 of 1988, art. 4.) It also makes it a crime to own or operate a brothel, and makes that crime is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding seven years. (Id. art. 3.)

Law No. 8 of 1988 does not include a provision expressly criminalizing homosexuality. Additionally, the Iraqi Penal Code does not mention the term “homosexuality.”. However, sources note that article 401 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes “immodest acts” in public, has been used to prosecute members of the LGBTQ community.

Criminalizing Prostitution under the new law

The new law enhances criminal penalties on violators. For instance, it stipulates that any person who owns or manages a brothel must be punished by a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years and a fine between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 Iraqi dinars (about US$3,600 and $7,100).

Likewise, it punishes any person who practice prostitution with a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years or a fine between 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 Iraqi dinars (about US$2,100 and $3,600).

The law defines the term “prostitution” as the repetition of the act of fornication with more than one person with or without pay.

Criminalizing Homosexuality

The new law provides that any person who has a homosexual relationship with another person must be punished by a term of imprisonment between 10 and 15 years. The law defines “homosexuality” as a sexual relationship between two persons of the same gender.

Aggravating Circumstances

The law enhances the criminal penalties under the two following circumstances:

    1. Any person using coercion or deception to bring another person who is 18 years of age to a specific location for the purpose of practicing prostitution or to practice the act of homosexuality must be punished by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.
    2. Any person using coercion or deception to bring another person who is less than 18 years of age to a specific location for the purpose of practicing prostitution or to practice the act of homosexuality must be punished by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 15 years.

Promotion of Homosexuality

The law prohibits all activities of NGOs that promote LGBT rights in Iraq.

The law requires the Iraqi Communications and Media Authority and the Ministry of Communication to adopt necessary measures to prevent the promotion of homosexuality and pornographic materials.

The law punishes any person who promotes homosexuality or prostitution with a term of imprisonment not exceeding seven years and a fine between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 Iraqi dinars (about US$7,100 and $10,700).

Criminalizing Gender Change Procedures

The law prohibits a gender change procedure based on personal inclination. It makes gender change surgeries conditional upon court approval.

The law punishes any person who unlawfully undergoes a gender change procedure with a term of imprisonment between one and three years. The law imposes the same penalty on a medical doctor who conducts a gender change surgery without court approval.

Reaction to the Law in Iraq

Amir Ashour, head of the IraQueer rights group, criticized the law and said it is likely to provide cover for armed groups to attack LGBTQ community in the country.

International non-government organizations and the U.S. State Department oppose the new Iraqi Law. For example, Human Rights Watch has criticized the law because it imposes heavy prison sentences on gay and transgender Iraqi people. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the law “threatens those most at risk in Iraqi society.” The United Nations has also voiced its concern regarding the new law. Ravina Shamdasani, the U.N. Human Rights Office spokesperson, said the law violates human rights treaties signed by Iraq, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

George Sadek, Law Library of Congress
May 16, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Sadek, George. Iraq: Parliament Passes New Law Prohibiting Prostitution, Homosexuality, Gender Change Procedures. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-15/iraq-parliament-passes-new-law-prohibiting-prostitution-homosexuality-gender-change-procedures/.

APA citation style:

Sadek, G. (2024) Iraq: Parliament Passes New Law Prohibiting Prostitution, Homosexuality, Gender Change Procedures. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-15/iraq-parliament-passes-new-law-prohibiting-prostitution-homosexuality-gender-change-procedures/.

MLA citation style:

Sadek, George. Iraq: Parliament Passes New Law Prohibiting Prostitution, Homosexuality, Gender Change Procedures. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-15/iraq-parliament-passes-new-law-prohibiting-prostitution-homosexuality-gender-change-procedures/>.