U.S. Report: LGBTQI+ Persecution in Iran

Iran’s laws, based on a conservative interpretation of Shiite Islam, did not provide any protections to or recognize LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families in 2023, the State Department reported. Same-sex sexual activity, consensual and nonconsensual, was criminalized. And “security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected or perceived as being LGBTQI+,” according to the annual human rights report. The following are excerpts.



Criminalization: The law criminalized consensual same-sex sexual activity, which was punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment. There were no reports of such punishments being enforced during the year. The law did not distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual same-sex intercourse, and NGOs reported this lack of clarity led to both the survivor and the perpetrator being held criminally liable under the law in cases of assault. Hate-crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms did not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes.

LGBTQI+ activists expressed concern that the government prosecuted LGBTQI+ individuals under the pretext of more severe, and possibly specious, criminal charges such as rape and incest. Those accused of sodomy often faced summary trials, and evidentiary standards were not always met. The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang) noted that individuals arrested under such conditions were traditionally subjected to forced anal examinations and other degrading treatment and sexual insults.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentences of Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani and Elham Choubdar, active members of the LGBTQI+ community, and both were released on bail in March. In September 2022, a court had reportedly sentenced them to death after finding them guilty of corruption on earth and human trafficking.

Violence and Harassment: LGBTQI+ persons were often subjected to violence. Security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected or perceived as being LGBTQI+. In some cases, security forces raided houses and monitored internet sites for information on LGBTQI+ persons.

6Rang reported dozens of LGBTQI+ persons who participated in the protests to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Zhina Amini said they experienced “aggravated violence, including sexual and physical abuse, as well as verbal harassment” by authorities. Protesters, including LGBTQI+ persons under age 18 and women, also reported “sexual assault and rape” during the protests and while in police custody.

Discrimination: The law did not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics and did not recognize LGBTQI+ individuals, couples, or their families. The law classified gay men and transgender women as having mental disorders and, on those grounds, exempted them from the otherwise mandatory military service for male citizens. Military identity cards listed the subsection of the law dictating the exemption. According to 6Rang, this practice identified gay or transgender individuals and put them at risk of physical abuse and discrimination in everyday life, including risk of arrest.

Lesbians and bisexual women were denied full rights as women, and for lesbians, these vulnerabilities could be greater and could include forced marriage. Although the government did not collect official data on discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals, NGOs reported that members of the LGBTQI+ community experienced widespread discrimination in education, employment, health care, personal safety, and within their own families.

Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Individuals were able to change their gender identify markers on government-issued identification cards after gender-affirming surgery and by court permission.

Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices: A number of private and semigovernmental psychological and psychiatric clinics allegedly continued to engage in “corrective treatment” or reparative therapies of LGBTQI+ persons. 6Rang reported the use at such clinics of electric shock therapy to the hands and genitals of LGBTQI+ persons, prescription of psychoactive medication, hypnosis, and coercive masturbation to pictures of persons of the opposite sex. One such institution, the Anonymous Sex Addicts Association of Iran, had branches in 18 provinces. The prevalence of conversion therapy practices was also documented by Outright International and public health scholars.

Some clerics believed LGBTQI+ persons were trapped in a body of the wrong sex, and NGOs reported that authorities sometimes pressured LGBTQI+ persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Reports indicated these procedures disregarded psychological and physical health and some persons recommended for surgery did not identify as transgender but were forced to comply to avoid punishment for their LGBTQI+ identity.

Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: The government censored all materials related to LGBTQI+ status or conduct. Authorities blocked websites or content within sites that discussed LGBTQI+ topics, including Wikipedia pages defining LGBTQI+ and other related topics.