Iraq postpones vote on bill including death penalty for same-sex acts

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr burn a poster depicting an LGBTQ+ flag during a protest in Karbala on June 29, 2023. (Mohammed Sawaf/AFP)
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr burn a poster depicting an LGBTQ+ flag during a protest in Karbala on June 29, 2023. (Mohammed Sawaf/AFP)

Iraqi lawmakers have postponed voting on a bill that includes the death penalty or life in prison for same-sex relations – a measure that diplomats from Western countries said could have serious consequences for Iraq’s political and economic ties if it goes through.

Parliament was in session today, with the bill – an amendment to an anti-prostitution law – second on its agenda.

It imposes life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone engaging in same-sex relations or anyone who swaps their wife with someone else’s for sexual purposes.

It also bans promotion of homosexuality and violations are punishable by at least seven years in prison.

Two lawmakers in the session say the vote was postponed over time constraints and that some disagreements remained over proposed amendments.

Currently, mainly Muslim Iraq does not explicitly criminalize gay sex, but loosely defined morality clauses in its penal code have been used to target LGBT people.

Parliament was in session to vote on the bill just hours before Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was scheduled to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on a trip focused on pushing for more US investment.

More than 60 countries criminalize gay sex, while same-sex sexual acts are legal in more than 130 countries, according to Our World in Data.

When Uganda in May 2023 enacted a law that includes the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, the World Bank halted new lending to the East African nation and the US announced visa and travel restrictions against Ugandan officials.

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