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Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults carry flogging and the death penalty while transgender expressions including cross-dressing may attract a punishment of 74 lashes and a fine. Transsexuality is, however, recognised as a Gender Identity Disorder (GID) curable through sex reassignment surgeries, which were made legal in Iran after a 1986 fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s previous Supreme Leader. As a result of this legal framework, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals who do not conform to culturally approved models of femininity and masculinity have to choose between risking harassment, persecution, and arbitrary arrest and detention by police and paramilitary basij forces because of their actual or perceived homosexual orientation on the one hand, and seeking a diagnosis of GID with a view to undergoing sex reassignment procedures on the other. Medical professionals frequently lead LGBT individuals to choose the latter course, which accounts for Iran having one of the highest numbers of sex reassignment surgeries in the world.
Lacking access to information about sexual orientation and gender identity and fearing laws criminalising any positive speech about homosexuality, medical professionals frequently assign a diagnosis of GID to LGBT individuals merely on account of their same-sex desires and gender non-conformity. They then nudge LGBT individuals to either receive reparative therapies (including electroshock therapy and psychoactive medications) aimed at “curing” them of homosexuality or undergo sterilisation and genital reassignment surgeries (GRS) aimed at turning them into “normally gendered” men or women. These abusive practices are taking place at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of Iranian officials. In March 2013, Mohamamd Javad Ardeshir Larijani, the head of Iran’s Human Rights Commission, for example called homosexuality “an illness” for which “people must be put under psychiatric care and sometime even biological and physical care.”
JFI & 6Rang have documented the accounts of dozens of LGBT individuals who have been prescribed reparative treatments without being given accurate and complete information whether about the risks, benefits, efficacy and scientific validity of such procedures or about issues relating to sexuality and gender diversity. JFI & 6Rang have further documented the plight of transgender individuals who are unable to obtain identity documents reflecting their gender and therefore enjoy their civil, political, economic and social rights until they complete mandatory sterilisation and GRS.
For more information, please refer 6Rang & JFI’s report Diagnosing Identities Wounding Bodies: Human Rights Violations against Lesbian, Gay and Transgender People in the Islamic Republic of Iran available at: https://justice4iran.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Pathologizing-Identities-Paralyzing-Bodies.pdf
During its first UPR, Iran refused all three recommendations concerning the human rights of LGBT individuals, including their right to life. JFI is keen to see the following recommendations being made to the Iranian delegation:
- Pending full decriminalisation of same-sex sexual relations remove the death penalty and flogging for offences relating to consensual same-sex relations between adults;
- End discrimination and violence against LGBT people, both in law and practice;
- Protect gender non-conforming people from harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture and other ill-treatment, whether by state or non-state actors;
- Adopt a comprehensive legislation to streamline legal sex change procedures and protect the right to health of transsexuals, without imposing sterilisation and genital reassignment surgeries as a prerequisite for gender legal recognition;
- Outlaw reparative therapies including electric shock therapies and psychoactive medications aimed at converting people’s sexual orientation and gender identity;
- Exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and hold accountable surgeons who administer substandard or negligent sex reassignment surgeries without informed consent or in reckless disregard of international standards of care for transsexual people.