Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises sexual activity between females
  • Imposes the death penalty

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2017, which criminalises acts of ‘sodomy’, ‘inciting sodomy’, and other forms of intimacy. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of two years. Both men and women are criminalised under the law. Additionally, the Penal Code allows for the implementation of Sharia law, under which same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death.

The primary source of law in Afghanistan is Islamic law. The passage of the revised Penal Code in 2017 was praised by the UN for its compliance with international obligations, however there are reports of a return to strict Sharia law following the takeover of the Taliban in 2021.

There is substantial evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being frequently subject to arrest, though it is often unclear whether these arrests result in convictions. There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in Afghanistan in recent years, including murder, assault, and harassment. The situation has significantly worsened following the Taliban takeover in 2021, with many reports of violent hate crime and murder being committed against LGBT people.



In October it was reported that a gay man had been executed by the Taliban because of his sexual orientation. Hamed Sabouri was reportedly kidnapped by the Taliban and a video showing his murder sent to his family days later.

In November it was reported that 9 men and 3 women were publicly lashed for committing “sodomy, adultery, and theft”. Each of the individuals received between 21 and 39 lashes. Close to 5,000 people gathered at a local stadium to witness the punishment.


In July, media reports showed a Taliban judge stating that gay men will be subjected to death by stoning or crushing under strict Sharia law imposed by the Taliban. Following the eventual takeover by the Taliban in August, fears of increased criminalisation and persecution of the LGBT community have been shared, with queer people reportedly fleeing the country and going underground, and countries being urged to accept LGBT refugees. Later in the month a report circulated of a gay man being raped, assaulted and outed to his family by the Taliban.

For homosexuals, there can only be two punishments: either stoning, or he must stand behind a wall that will fall down on him.

Taliban Judge, July 2021


The US Department of State report for 2020 states that LGBT individuals continued to face arrest by security forces, as well as discrimination, assault, and rape. This has consistently been found in recent iterations of this report.


The US Department of State report for 2016 stated that NGOs reported police arrested, detained, robbed, and raped gay men in the year.


It was reported that a parallel justice court sentenced three gay men (including one 17-year-old) to execution by “wall-toppling”. The 17-year-old survived and was allowed to live.


The UK Country of Origin report on Afghanistan indicated that the death penalty had not been applied since the end of Taliban rule.

In March, an English language Afghan news source, Khaama Press, provided statistics on the number of gay men prosecuted during the year, provided by Major General Zahir Zahir, the Commander of Kabul City Police and one-time recipient of a EUPOL Best Practice Award. According to the General, Afghan police forces arrested 97 individuals in relation to homosexuality. It is not immediately evident whether this statistic comes from the country at large, or Kabul city alone.

Discrimination and Violence


In January, a report by Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International found that the situation for LGBT people in Afghanistan had dramatically worsened since the Taliban takeover in 2021. The report documents a sharp increase in discrimination, violence and murder committed against LGBT people, with many having fled or entered hiding. The report included interviews with LGBT Afghanis who had been subjected to beatings, mob attacks and rape.


The US Department of State report states that in 2020 “there were reports of harassment and violence of LGBTI individuals by society and police. Homosexuality was widely seen as taboo and indecent. LGBTI individuals did not have access to certain health-care services and could be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. Organizations devoted to protecting the freedom of LGBTI persons remained underground because they could not legally register with the government.” Furthermore, the report notes the case of Saboor Husaini, a transgender activist and artist who died in a Herat hospital after being beaten by an unidentified group of men in December.


It is reported that “LGBT people face significant violence and discrimination from the State, their own families, and society at large. However, there is sparse evidence, anecdote and data being reported on the situations of sexual and gender minorities in the country, and there are no SOGI advocacy organisations or networks known of.”


The BBC reported on the experiences of four Afghans who belonged to the LGBT community. All four reported hiding their identities for fear of reprisal and even death. One interviewee stated, “In Afghanistan, being lesbian is seen as un-Islamic. If people found out, the result would be death.”


Whilst persecution and discrimination has been recognised by a number of bodies, there is a particular problem of underreporting. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued guidance on this issue: “Given the pervading social taboos related to same-sex relations, there is little information available on the treatment of LGBTI individuals in Afghanistan. What little information there is pertains to gay men and male transvestites; the situation of lesbians, and that of bisexual, transgender or intersex individuals is largely undocumented. The absence of information should not be taken to mean that there is no risk for LGBTI individuals.”

In January, a gay man from Afghanistan was granted asylum in Denmark on account of the ‘high risk of persecution’ he would face, were he to return to his home country. A similar decision was reached by the UK Asylum and immigration tribunal.


A document prepared by the Country Research Section (CRS), Onshore Protection Branch of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Canberra; notes a number of instances of state-sanctioned execution whilst the country was under Taliban rule; including instances of men being executed on account of their sexuality by having a wall pushed on top of them by a tank.


Related Countries


Turkmenistan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.


Iran criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.


Pakistan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. Sentences include a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment and a fine.

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