The 2013 Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran explicitly forbids sexual relations between
same-sex partners, whether such relations are consensual or coerced.
The offences and punishments for males engaged in same-sex sexual or intimate conduct
(including acts such as kissing or lustful touching) are described in Articles 233 to 237.
Depending on whether the convicted individual is active/passive partner, married/single, or
whether they are Muslim/non-Muslim, the punishment can range from flogging to the death
penalty. The 2013 Penal Code also criminalizes female same-sex relations and intimate conduct
through Articles 238 to 240, the punishment for which is flogging regardless of circumstance. 5
There are no official, readily available statistics on the number of executions for same-sex
relations.6 However, NGO reports have shown that it occurs and suggest the incidence rate is
high.7 8 9 10 11
In 1986, then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa (a ruling or a religious decree
on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority) permitting the acceptance of sex
reassignment surgery for transgender people.12 Sex reassignment surgery is now codified in
Article 4 of the Family Law (2013), which stipulates that those seeking medical intervention
should obtain prior judicial and medical approval officially stating that they have been diagnosed
with Gender Identity Disorder.13 The Ministry of Health has overall responsibility for
implementation of this law, by ensuring the provision of medical care to recognized transgender
people. The State Welfare Office provides social and psychological support and a number of
state institutions , such as the Ministry of Labor, are involved in supporting transgender
individuals who pursue or have been through sex reassignment procedures.14 Although State
recognition and support have given transgender individuals a certain level of legal legitimization,
it also has reinforced the societal stigma due to the pathologisation of transgender identities: that
trans persons suffer from a medical condition which requires treatment. Additionally, medical
assessment in the Islamic Republic of Iran conflates a variety of sexual and gender identities
with transsexuality, resulting in those for whom surgery is neither appropriate nor necessary
being ‘treated’ in line with the prevailing medical opinion: that any divergence from cisgendered

5

Islamic Penal Code 2013, Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, https://iranhrdc.org/english-translation-of-books-i-ii-ofthe-new-islamic-penal-code/
6
Small Media, 2018, https://smallmedia.org.uk/media/projects/files/BreakingTheSilence_2018.pdf
7
Amnesty International, 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/08/iran-hanging-of-teenager-shows-brazendisregard-for-international-law/
8
Amnesty International, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org.uk/urgent-alireza-arrested-15-tortured-confession-be-executedtomorrow
9
Iran Human Rights, 2019, https://iranhr.net/en/articles/3611/
10
Human Dignity Trust, https://www.humandignitytrust.org/country-profile/iran/
11
International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 2019,
https://ilga.org/downloads/ILGA_State_Sponsored_Homophobia_2019.pdf
12
Outright International, 2016, https://outrightinternational.org/sites/default/files/OutRightTransReport.pdf
13
Outright International, 2016, https://outrightinternational.org/sites/default/files/OutRightTransReport.pdf
14
Outright International, 2016, https://outrightinternational.org/sites/default/files/OutRightTransReport.pdf

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