Sudwind and International Gay and Lesbian Human Right Commission, (IGLHRC) appreciate Madam High commissioner’s decision to highlight the issue of combating discrimination against sexual minorities in the annual Report. In today’s world, the status of the rights of LGBT people in every country is a strong indicator of overall human rights situation in that country. Unfortunately, in many countries such as Islamic Republic of Iran, people who engage in same-sex activity must hide their identity from their families and society, out of the fear of persecution and abuse.
In addition to cultural homophobia, state officials in the country have repeatedly denied the existence of Iranian gay, lesbian, or bisexual individuals, and hence negating any legal rights and protections for them. Given the sentence of capital punishment for same-sex practices in the State’s Penal Code, the issue of sexual identity in Iran can literary be a matter of life and death. Although there has been a global effort to recognize the human rights of all people in recent years, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity, Iran’s new penal code still imposes severe criminal penalties. For example, Article 232-233 of the new Islamic Penal Code in Iran condemns the “passive” partner of consensual sexual intercourse between two men to death, while the “active” partner will receive 100 lashes, as long as he is Muslim and unmarried. None-Muslims and married men who engage in consensual same-sex relations are subjected to the death penalty regardless of their position during the intimacy. The new Penal Code also stipulates that intimate acts between women and non-penetrative homosexual conducts between men are punishable by 100 lashes.
LGBT people in Iran are viewed as sick or perverts and their families often force them to undergo treatment for mental health, or subject them to acts of domestic violence or disownment. Although sex-reassignment surgery for Transgender people is legally recognized by Iran, the lack of proper social, health care and psychological support often leads to a host of physical and psychological problems for transgender people. The Iranian law also does not recognize the rights of transgender individuals who do not want to go through sex-reassignment surgery.
There are also concerns about possible forced sex-reassignment surgery under social, legal or family pressure.
For Iranian LGBT people who are unwanted in their homeland and unwelcomed by their family members, their best chance of survival is to escape Iran and seek asylum elsewhere. Some Iranian LGBT individuals have left their native country and moved to the neighboring Turkey as refugees. It takes them years to be granted refugee status by the UNHCR and be sent to a safe host country. While in transition in Turkey, many are subject to acts of discrimination, humiliation and violence. The Transgender individuals in need of urgent medication are unable to afford the costs of their hormonal treatment, an issue that can be deadly. Just few months age, an Iranian trans refugee woman in Turkey died due to medical complications.
Sudwind and IGLHRC are very pleased that the UN human right procedures are increasingly concerned about the plight of the marginalized groups. We appreciate the appointment of the “Independent expert on enjoyment of all human rights by older persons”, and hope that Council continues this trend of heightened attention to sub-populations facing particular types of discrimination and abuse, by seeking more regular reporting and debate on human rights violations against LGBT people.