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US State Department blasts Iraq’s new anti-gay law

The US State Department has said that a law passed by Iraq’s parliament yesterday criminalising same-sex relationships was a threat to human rights and freedoms and would weaken Iraq’s ability to attract foreign investment.

“This amendment threatens those most at risk in Iraqi Society. It can be used to hamper free-speech and expression and inhibit the operations of NGOs across Iraq,” a US state department statement said.

Iraq’s parliament passed the law criminalising same-sex relationships with a maximum 15-year prison sentence, saying the move aimed to uphold religious values.

Rights advocates condemned the law as the latest attack on the LGBT community in Iraq.

US State Department Spokesperson Matt Miller said the law threatens those most at risk in Iraqi society

Transgender people will be sentenced to three years in jail under amendments to a 1988 anti-prostitution law, which were adopted during a session attended by 170 out of 329 politicians in the country.

A previous draft had proposed capital punishment for same-sex relations, in what campaigners had called a “dangerous” escalation.

The new amendments enable courts to sentence people engaging in same-sex relations to between 10 to 15 years in prison.

They also set a minimum seven-year prison term for “promoting” same-sex relations.

The US President Joe Biden met with the Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani earlier this month

Homosexuality is taboo in Iraq’s conservative society, however there had not previously been a law that explicitly punished same-sex relations.

Members of Iraq’s LGBTQ community have been prosecuted for sodomy or under vague morality and anti-prostitution clauses in Iraq’s penal code.

“Iraq has effectively codified in law the discrimination and violence members of the LGBTI community have been subjected to with absolute impunity for years,” said Amnesty International’s Iraq researcher Razaw Salihy.

“The amendments concerning LGBTI rights are a violation of fundamental human rights and put at risk Iraqis whose lives are already hounded daily,” Ms Salihy added.

The amendments also ban organisations that “promote” homosexuality and punish “wife swapping” with a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.

“The law serves as a preventive measure to protect society from such acts,” Iraqi politician Raed al-Maliki, who advanced the amendments, told journalists.

He said passing the new amendment was postponed until after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani’s visit to the United States earlier this month.

The United States and the European Union oppose the law and “we didn’t want to impact the visit,” he said.

“It is an internal matter and we do not accept any interference in Iraqi affairs.”

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