LGBT rights in Iran
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Iran face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal.
|LGBT rights in Iran|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal status||Illegal: Islamic Sharia Law is applied|
|Imprisonment, lashing, execution (see below)|
|Gender identity/expression||Sex reassignment surgery (male to female) partially paid for by the government|
LGBT rights in Iran have come in conflict with the penal code since the 1930s. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, or by execution. Gay men have faced stricter enforcement actions under the law than lesbians. However, it is disputed as to whether the executions of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, or three other men executed in 2011 in Khuzestan province were punishment for other crimes or carried out specifically because of their homosexuality.
Any type of sexual activity outside a heterosexual marriage is forbidden. Transsexuality in Iran is legal if accompanied by a gender confirmation surgery, with Iran carrying out more gender realignment operations than any other country in the world after Thailand. These surgeries are typically partially funded by the state – there have been claims that some homosexual men may have been pressured to undergo them both by government and society. Transsexuals still report societal intolerance as in other societies around the world.
LGBT history in IranEdit
Ancient Iranian society had a tradition of polytheism and initiatory pederasty, which came into sharp conflict during the Achaemenid period. Iranian pederasty and its origins was debated even in ancient times. Herodotus claimed they had learned it from the Greeks: "From the Greeks they have learned to lie with boys." However, Plutarch asserts that the Iranians used eunuch boys to that end long before contact between the cultures. In either case, Plato claimed they saw fit to forbid it to the inhabitants of the lands they occupied, since "It does not suit the rulers that their subjects should think noble thoughts, nor that they should form the strong friendships and attachments which these activities, and in particular love, tend to produce."
Moving forward to the early medieval period, the hadith (sayings and actions of the Islamic founder Muhammad), from around the seventh century CE, show that homosexuality was not unknown in Arabia. Given that the Qur'an itself (the holy book of Islam) is vague regarding the punishment of homosexual sodomy, Islamic jurists turned to the collections of the hadith and seerah (accounts of Muhammad's life) to support their argument for Hudud punishment.
The four schools of later medieval shari'a (Islamic law), however, disagreed on what punishment is appropriate for liwat. Abu Bakr Al-Jassas (d. 981 AD/370 AH) argued that the two hadiths on killing sodomites (homosexual men) "are not reliable by any means and no legal punishment can be prescribed based on them", and the Hanafi school held that it does not merit any physical punishment, on the basis of a hadith that "Muslim blood can only be spilled for adultery, apostasy and homicide"; against this the Hanbali school held that sodomy is a form of adultery and must incur the same penalty, i.e. death.
Under the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last monarch of the Pahlavi Dynasty, homosexuality was tolerated, even to the point of allowing news coverage of a same-sex wedding. In the mid-late 1970s, some Iranians even began to talk about starting up a gay rights organization, similar to the Gay Liberation movement. Until the Islamic Revolution, there were some night clubs in which intimacy between men was tolerated. During the Shah's time, however, homosexuality was broadly culturally taboo in wider society, and often one could not turn to family or friends for support and guidance. There were no public agencies to assist youth or people who were confused or questioning their sexuality.
The new religious government that came to be established after the 1979 Iranian Revolution classed transsexuals and transvestites with gays and lesbians, who were condemned by Islam and faced the punishment and imprisonment under Iran's penal code. In 1986, transsexuals were re-classified as being "heterosexual".
Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the legal code has been based on Islamic Shari'a law. All sexual relations that occur outside a traditional, heterosexual marriage (i.e. sodomy or adultery) are illegal and no legal distinction is made between consensual or non-consensual sodomy. Homosexual relations that occur between consenting adults in private are a crime and carry a maximum punishment of death (though not generally implemented) Forced homosexual relations (rape) often results in execution. The death penalty is legal for those above 18, and if a murder was committed, legal at the age of 15. (see Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni whose ages were raised to 19 in court transcripts). Approved by the Iranian Parliament on July 30, 1991, and finally ratified by the Guardian Council on November 28, 1991, articles 108 through 140 distinctly talk about homosexuality and its punishments in detail:
Sodomy (lavat) can in certain circumstances be a crime for which both partners can be punished by death. If the participants are adults, of sound mind and consenting; the method of execution is for the judge to decide. If one person is non-consenting (ex. a rape), the punishment would only apply to the rapist. A non-adult who engages in consensual sodomy is subject to a punishment of 74 lashes. (Articles 108 to 113) Sodomy is proved either if a person confesses four times to having committed sodomy or by the testimony of four righteous men. Testimony of women alone or together with a man does not prove sodomy. (Articles 114 to 119). "If sodomy, or the lesser crimes referred to above, are proved by confession, and the person concerned repents, the Shari'a judge may request that he be pardoned. If a person who has committed the lesser crimes referred to above repents before the giving of testimony by the witnesses, the punishment is quashed. (Articles 125 and 126). The judge may punish the person for lesser crimes at his discretion.
The punishment for lesbianism (mosahegheh) involving persons who are mature, of sound mind, and consenting, is 50 lashes. If the act is repeated three times and punishment is enforced each time, the death sentence will apply on the fourth occasion. (Articles 127, 129, 130) The ways of proving lesbianism in court are the same as for male homosexuality. (Article 128) Non-Muslim and Muslim alike are subject to punishment (Article 130) The rules for the quashing of sentences, or for pardoning, are the same as for the lesser male homosexual offenses (Articles 132 and 133) Women who "stand naked under one cover without necessity" and are not relatives may receive a punishment of 50 lashes. (Article 134)
Laws regarding transsexualityEdit
Article 20 in clause 14, states "a person who has changed his/her sex can legally change their name and gender on the birth certification upon the order of court."
Those who are in favor of legitimately being able to reassign one’s sex surgically utilize article 215 of Iran’s civil code stating that the acts of every person should be subject to rational benefit, meaning gender reassignment surgery would be in the best interest of whomever is appealing for governmental support. Caveats, however, include the need to have medical approval from a doctor that supports a dissonance between assigned gender and their true gender.
Although legally recognized by the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayotallah Khamenei, Ayotallah Seyyed Yusef Madani Tabrizi, a respected clergyman, addresses gender reassignment surgery as "unlawful and not permissible by Shari’a."[clarification needed] Reasons for his contestation include the altering of God’s creation and disfiguration of vital organs as being unlawful.[unreliable source?]
Application of lawsEdit
At the discretion of the Iranian court, fines, prison sentences, and corporal punishment are usually carried out rather than the death penalty (unless the crime was a rape).
The charges of homosexuality and Lavat (sodomy) have in a few occasions been used in political crimes. Other charges had been paired with the Lavat crime, such as rape or acts against the state, and convictions are obtained in grossly flawed trials. On March 14, 1994, famous dissident writer Ali Akbar Saidi Sirjani was charged with offenses ranging from drug dealing to espionage to homosexuality. He died in prison under disputed circumstances.
Some human rights activists and opponents of the Iranian government claim between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed in Iran for crimes related to their sexual orientation since 1979, while Amnesty International reports 5,000 have been. According to The Boroumand Foundation, there are records of at least 107 executions with charges related to homosexuality between 1979 and 1990. According to Amnesty International, at least 5 people convicted of "homosexual tendencies", three men and two women, were executed in January 1990, as a result of the Iranian government's policy of calling for the execution of those who practice homosexuality.
Homosexual offenses are legally recognized as adultery, sodomy, rape and often related to drug trafficking, alcoholism and other major crimes. Punishments are severe.
In a November 2007 meeting with his British counterpart, Iranian member of parliament Mohsen Yahyavi admitted that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality. According to Yahyavi, gays deserve to be tortured, executed, or both.
Rape (zina-be-onf) is related to adultery, has the same proof requirements, and is punishable by death by hanging. In Iran, for most part, convictions are made either by confession or "judge's knowledge", rather than witnesses. Ten to fifteen percent of executions in Iran are for rape.
In many cases the rape victim settles the case by accepting compensation (jirah) in exchange for withdrawing the charges or forgiving the rapist. This is similar to diyyeh, but equal to a woman's dowry. A woman can also receive diyya for injuries sustained. Normally the rapist still faces tazir penalties, such as 100 lashes and jail time for immoral acts, and often faces further penalties for other crimes committed alongside the rape, such as kidnapping, assault, and disruption of public order.
One controversial execution was the execution of Makwan Moloudzadeh (sometimes spelled "Mouloudzadeh") on December 6, 2007. He was convicted of lavat-be-onf (sodomy rape) and executed for raping three teenage boys when he was 13, even though all witnesses had retracted their accusations and Moloudzadeh withdrew a confession. As a 13-year-old, he was ineligible for the death penalty under Iranian law. Despite international outcry and a nullification of the death sentence by Iranian Chief Justice Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrud, Moloudzadeh was hanged without his family or his attorney being informed until after the fact. The execution provoked international outcry since it violated two international treaties signed by Iran that outlaw capital punishment for crimes committed by minors, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sodomy (lavat) is punishable by death. The judge can determine the type of death, but in practice it is always hanging. The proof requirements are the same as for adultery and such sentences are very rare. If one of the consenting participants was under 18, the punishment is 100 lashes for the minor. If the accused are repentant, they generally receive a reduced sentence of 99 lashes. Those convicted spend one year in prison, in addition, and can be sentenced to more prison time at the judge's discretion. Few consenting participants are sentenced to death, but prior to 2012, both partners could receive the death penalty. On March 15, 2005, the daily newspaper Etemaad reported that the Tehran Criminal Court sentenced two men to death following the discovery of a video showing them engaged in sexual acts. Another two men were allegedly hanged publicly in the northern town of Gorgan for sodomy in November 2005. In July 2006 two youths in north-eastern Iran were hanged for "sex crimes", probably consensual homosexual acts. On November 16, 2006, the State-run news agency reported the public execution of a man convicted of sodomy in the western city of Kermanshah.
On January 23, 2008, Hamzeh Chavi, 18, and Loghman Hamzehpour, 19, were arrested in Sardasht, in Iranian Azerbaijan for homosexuality. An on-line petition for their release began to circulate around the internet. They apparently confessed to the authorities that they were in a relationship and in love, prompting a court to charge them with Moharebeh ("waging war against God") and Lavat (sodomy).
There were two reported crackdowns in Esfahān (also spelled "Isfahan"), Iran's third-largest city. On May 10, 2007, Esfahān police arrested 87 people at a birthday party, including 80 suspected gay men, beating and detaining them through the weekend. All but 17 of the men were released; those who remained in custody were believed to have been wearing women's clothing. Photos of the beaten men were released by the Toronto-based Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. According to Human Rights Watch, in February 2008 police in Esfhan raided a party in a private home and arrested 30 men, who were held indefinitely without a lawyer on suspicion of homosexuality.
In Islam, the term mukhannathun is used to describe gender-variant people, usually transgender people who are transitioning from male to female. Neither this term nor the equivalent for "eunuch" occurs in the Qur'an, but the term does appear in the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad, which have a secondary status to the central text. Moreover, within Islam, there is a tradition on the elaboration and refinement of extended religious doctrines through scholarship. This doctrine contains a passage by the scholar and hadith collector An-Nawawi:
A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.[unreliable source]
While Iran has outlawed homosexuality, Iranian Shi'a thinkers such as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini have allowed for transsexuals to reassign their sex so that they can enter heterosexual relationships. This position has been confirmed by the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and is also supported by many other Iranian clerics. The state will pay a portion of the cost for a gender reassignment operation. Some lesbian Iranian women have cross-dressed to avoid sexual harassment and rape, opposition groups alleging that they do so to obtain "economic opportunities only available to men", despite 60% of professionals in Iran being women, and Iran even having a female vice-president. It is illegal for a woman to dress as a man, or for a barber to cut the hair of a woman short (out of fear that doing so would facilitate cross-dressing). Likewise, men who cross-dress or are deemed too effeminate will also face harassment or criminal charges. Transsexuals are granted immunity from these regulations.
Since the mid-1980s, the Iranian government has legalized the practice of gender realignment operations (under medical approval) and the modification of pertinent legal documents to reflect the reassigned gender. In 1983, Khomeini passed a fatwa allowing gender realignment operations as a cure for "diagnosed transsexuals", allowing for the basis of this practice becoming legal. This religious decree was first issued for Maryam Khatoon Molkara, who has since become the leader of an Iranian transsexual organization. Hojatoleslam Kariminia, a mid-level Islamic cleric in Iran, is another advocate for transsexual rights, having called publicly for greater respect for the human rights of Iranian transsexuals.
Despite the government's policy, transsexualism is still a taboo topic within Iranian society, and no laws exist to protect post-operative transsexuals from discrimination. Some gay and bisexual individuals in Iran are pressured to undergo gender realignment operation and live as women in order to avoid legal and social persecution. Tanaz Eshaghian's 2008 documentary, Be Like Others addresses this issue. Documentary explores issues of gender and sexual identity while following the personal stories of some of the patients at a Tehran gender reassignment clinic. The film played at the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, winning three awards. Although homosexual relationships are illegal (punishable by death) in Iran, sex reassignment operations are permitted. Be Like Others shows the experiences of male and female patients at Dr. Bahram Mir-Jalali's Mirdamad Surgical Centre, a sex-reassignment clinic in Tehran. Sarah Farizan’s novel If You Could Be Mine, explores the relationship between two young girls Sahar and Nisrin who live in the Islamic Republic of Iran through gender identity and the possibility of undergoing gender reassignment surgery. In order for the two to be in an open relationship, Sahar considers surgery to work within the confines of law which permits relationships after transitioning due to the relationship being between a male and female.
Family and relationshipsEdit
Same-sex marriages and or civil unions are not legally recognized in Iran. Traditional Iranian families often exercise strong influence in who, and when, their children marry and even what profession they chose. Few LGBT Iranians come out to family for fear of being rejected, abused or turned over to the authorities. No legislation exists to address discrimination or bias motivated violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Officially, the Iranian government believes that everyone is heterosexual and that homosexuality is a violation of the supreme will of God.
Traditional Iranian families tend to prohibit their children from dating, as it is not a part of Iranian culture, although this has become somewhat more tolerated, among liberals. In 2004 an independent film was released, directed by Maryam Keshavarz, that examined the changing mores of Iranian youth when it comes to sex and dating.
Gay Iranian couples are often afraid to be seen together  in public, and report that LGBT people were widely stereotyped as being sex-obsessed child molesters, rapists, and diseased ridden degenerates. A popular Iranian derogatory slur against is that of a, "evakhahar", typically a very effeminate gay man who seeks casual sex in public.
In 2002 a book entitled Witness Play by Cyrus Shamisa was banned from shelves (despite being initially approved) because it said that certain notable Persian writers were homosexuals or bisexuals.
In 2004, the Iranian government loaned its collection of artwork, locked away since revolution for being, "profane" to the Tate Britain gallery for six months. The artwork included explicit homoerotic artwork by Francis Bacon and the Iranian government stated that upon its return, it would be put on display in Iran.
In 2005, the liberal Iranian paper Shargh was shut down by the government after it interviewed an Iranian author, living in Canada. While the interview never mentioned the sexual orientation of Saghi Ghahreman, it did quote her as stating that, "sexual boundaries must be flexible... The immoral is imposed by culture on the body." The conservative paper Kayhan attacked the interview and the paper, "Shargh has interviewed this homosexual while aware of her sick sexual identity, dissident views and porno-personality." To avoid being permanently shut down, the paper issued a public apology stating it was unaware of the author's "personal traits" and promised to "avoid such people and movements."
Exiled political parties and groupsEdit
The Iranian government will not allow a political party or organization to endorse LGBT rights.
Vague support for LGBT rights in Iran has fallen to a handful of exiled political organizations. The Green Party of Iran has an English translation of its website that states, "Every Iranian citizen is equal by law, regardless of gender, age, race, nationality, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or political beliefs" and calls for a "separation of state and religion".
The Worker Communist Party of Iran homepage has an English translation of its manifesto that supports the right of "All adults, women or men" to be "completely free in deciding over their sexual relationships with other adults. Voluntary relationship of adults with each other is their private affair and no person or authority has the right to scrutinize it, interfere with it or make it public".
The leftist Rah-e Karegar Party, the liberal Marz-e Por Gohar and the center-right Constitutionalist Party of Iran have all expressed support for the separation of religion and the state, which might promote LGBT rights.
LGBT rights movementEdit
In 1972, scholar Saviz Shafaii gave a public lecture on homosexuality at the Shiraz University and in 1976 would research sexual orientation and gender issues at Syracuse University. In the 1990s, he joined the first human rights group for LGBT Iranians, HOMAN and continued his work until he died of cancer in 2000.
In 2001 an online Iranian LGBT rights organization was founded by a well-known Iranian gay activist, Arsham Parsi called "Rainbow", followed by a clandestine organization called the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization. As of 2008, this group has been renamed the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. While the founder of this group had to flee Iran and continue his work as an exile, there is an underground LGBT rights movement in Iran.
In 2006, the career of Iranian-born, openly gay comedian Ali Mafi began. Since then, Ali has become one of the nation's youngest and fastest rising gay comedians. In all his shows, Ali mentions his status as an Iranian citizen and his commitment to being proud of who he is regardless. Ali currently resides in San Francisco, California, which hosts a prominent gay community.
In 2007, the Canadian CBC TV produced a documentary that interviewed several LGBT Iranians who talked about their struggles.
During protests against the outcome of the Iranian election in July 2009, it was reported that several openly gay Iranians joined crowds of straight protesters in the UK and were welcomed with mostly positive attitudes towards LGBT rights.
Despite the deeply conservative character of the Iranian government, its efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS have been quite progressive. The first official reports of HIV/AIDS in Iran were reported in 1987, and a government commission was formed, albeit it was not until the 1990s that a comprehensive policy began to arise .
In 1997, Dr. Arash Alaei and his brother, Kamiar, were given permission to open up a small office for HIV/AIDS research among prisoners and with a few years, despite public protests, they helped open the first general HIV/AIDS clinics. A booklet was approved, with explanation of condoms, and distributed to high school students. By the late 1990s, a comprehensive educational campaign existed.
Several clinics opened up to offer free testing and counseling. Government funds were allocated to distribute condoms to prostitutes, clean needles and drug rehabilitation to addicts and programs aired on television advocating the use of condoms. While there are shortages, medication is given to all Iranian citizens free of charge.
The Alaei brothers were joined in their educational campaign by Dr. Minoo Mohraz, who was also an early proponent of greater HIV/AIDS education, who chairs a research center in Tehran. Along with government funding, UNICEF has funded several Iranian volunteer based groups that seek to promote greater education about the pandemic and to combat the prejudice that often follows Iranians who have it . Yet, the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may signal a more restrictive approach to the pandemic.
In June 2008 the Alaei brothers were detained, without charge, by the Iranian government, after attending an international conference on HIV/AIDS. The government has since accused the two doctors of attending the conference as part of a larger plotting to overthrow the government.
As of 2007, the Iranian government says that 18,320 Iranians have been infected with HIV, bringing the official number of deaths to 2,800, although critics claim that the actual number may be much higher. Officially, drug addiction is the most common way that Iranians become infected.
While educational programs exist for prostitutes and drug addicts, no educational campaign for LGBT has been allowed to exist. In talking about the situation Kaveh Khoshnood stated, "Some people would be able to talk about their own drug addiction or their family members, but they find it incredibly difficult to talk about homosexuality in any way," Khoshnood said. "If you're not acknowledging its existence, you're certainly not going to be developing any programs" for gays.
Some middle class Iranians have received an education in a Western nation; there is a small population of gay Iranian immigrants who live in Western nations. However, most attempts by gay Iranians to seek asylum in a foreign country based on the Iranian government's anti-gay policies have failed, considering its policies are mild compared to US allies such as Saudi Arabia.
In 2001, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights rejected a plea from an Iranian man who escaped from an Iranian prison after being convicted and sentenced to death for the crime of homosexuality. Part of the problem with this case was that the man had entered the country illegally and was later convicted of killing his boyfriend, after he discovered that he had been unfaithful.
In 2005, the Japanese government rejected an asylum plea from another Iranian gay man. That same year, the Swedish government also rejected a similar claim by an Iranian gay man's appeal. The Netherlands is also going through a review of its asylum policies in regard to Iranians claiming to be victims of the Iranian government's anti-gay policies.
In 2006, the Netherlands stopped deporting gay men back to Iran temporarily. In March 2006, Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said that it was now clear "that there is no question of executions or death sentences based solely on the fact that a defendant is gay", adding that homosexuality was never the primary charge against people. However, in October 2006, after pressure from both within and outside the Netherlands, Verdonk changed her position and announced that Iranian LGBTs would not be deported.
The UK came under fire for its continued deporting, especially due to news reports documenting gay Iranians who committed suicide when faced with deportation. Some cases have provoked lengthy campaigning on behalf of potential deportees, sometimes resulting in gay Iranians being granted asylum, as in the cases of Kiana Firouz and Mehdi Kazemi.
Views of the Iranian government on homosexualityEdit
The Iranian state media have shown their hatred toward homosexuality on many occasions, and no press or other media outlet in Iran is allowed to support LGBT rights. For example, the Iranian state media has stated that it believes homosexuals are deviant individuals who have, for some reason (psychological, social or physiological) deviated from the balanced and natural human condition and need help and support to stop sinking any further into the 'swamp of immorality'. Iran's PressTV has a plagiarised comment policy that expressly forbids homosexuality.
In 2007, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to Columbia University, said that "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals", though a spokesperson later stated that his comments were misunderstood.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(Penalty: Death)|
|Equal age of consent|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Step-child adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples|
|MSM allowed to donate blood|
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