Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
  • Death penalty
Penal Code 2013, Art. 233-234 Livat

Article 234 provides that ‘livat’ – defined under Article 233 as penetrative anal intercourse between men – is punishable with the death penalty.1

Penal Code 2013, Art. 235-236 Tafkhiz

Article 236 provides that ‘tafkhiz’ – defined under Article 235 as putting a male sex organ between the thighs/buttocks of another man – is punishable with 100 lashes, or the death penalty if the active party is non-Muslim and the passive party is Muslim.2

Penal Code 2013, Art. 237 Other Homosexual Acts

Article 237 provides that same-sex intimacy between men and between women other than ‘liwat’ or ‘tafkhiz’, such as “kissing or touching as a result of lust”, is punishable with 31-74 lashes.3

Penal Code 2013, Art. 238-240 Musaheqeh

Article 239 provides that ‘musaheqeh’ – defined under Article 238 as a woman putting her sex organ on the sex organ of another woman – is punishable with 100 lashes.4



In January, it was reported that a 31 year old gay man had been publicly executed by hanging.


The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Iran indicated that “security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being LGBTI” including raiding houses and gatherings. Those who were accused of same-sex intimacy were frequently subjected to summary trials lacking proper evidentiary standards. Those arrested were often subjected to forced anal examinations.


In April, 30 men were arrested at a gathering in central Iran, transferred to Dastgerd Prison and charged with sodomy by a local court. It is reported that since at least 2007, there have been a number of state-led raids on private parties followed by mass arrests and detention on suspicion of same-sex sexual acts. Following their arrests, detainees are often forced to reveal the names of other LGBT people.

The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Iran states that the law is enforced actively and does not distinguish between consensual and non-consensual same-sex intercourse, and NGOs reported this lack of clarity led to both the victim and the perpetrator being held criminally liable under the law in cases of assault. It further states that those accused of “sodomy” often faced summary trials where evidentiary standards were not always met.


In July, a 17 year old boy, Hassan Afshar, was hanged following a conviction for raping another teenager, despite repeatedly maintaining that the sexual acts had been consensual.


In August, two men were executed by hanging for consensual same-sex intimacy.


According to the US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Iran, on 8 October, 17 individuals were arrested and others beaten at an alleged “gay birthday party”. No charges were eventually filed.


In its submission to the Human Rights Committee, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (now OutRight Action International) stated: “[I]ndividuals have been convicted of sodomy based on pre-trial admissions recanted testimony, confessions extracted by means of torture, testimony by less than four witnesses, and sometimes without any testimony or admission at all. Some accused of sodomy have been convicted without understanding the charges against them. Some have been convicted without access to counsel. There are reports that human rights defenders have been charged with sodomy as a ploy to discredit them. Lawyers defending clients charged with sodomy report limited access to their clients. Reporters, lawyers, or family members who dare to speak up about these cases or to challenge the court‘s ruling can face harassment and even persecution by the government. In these cases, the judges often rely on the knowledge of the judge to determine the guilt of the defendant, though according to the law, the ―knowledge of the Judge should be based on facts and evidence and not in substitution of the facts.”3


In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch commented: “In recent years there has been considerable debate regarding how many individuals have been executed by the state for having committed same-sex acts, if those executed had engaged in consensual sex (or any sex at all) or not, and whether the state specifically targets homosexuals for execution. Notwithstanding these debates, the fact remains that Iranian law provides the death penalty for consensual same-sex acts, the threat of execution hangs above all Iranians who engage in such acts, and Iran‘s sexual minorities are disproportionately affected by these discriminatory laws.”

Statements by Public Figures


In December, the Iranian Lesbian & Transgender Network published a report on hate speech by state officials towards LGBT people detailing a range of harmful and hostile rhetoric.


In April, the Supreme Leader of Iran described homosexuality as “moral bankruptcy” and “libidinous behaviour”.

In September, the Speaker of Parliament referred to homosexuality as “Western barbarism.”


In March, in responding to international criticism of Iran’s treatment of LGBT people, Mehrdad Bazrpash, former MP and Deputy President of Iran, asserted that “one of the honours of the Islamic Republic is to violate the rights of homosexuals.”

In an interview with Piers Morgan, former President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, commented on homosexuality: “I’m sorry. Let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is giving birth through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly, and others do not accept your behaviour, that they’re denying your freedom?… Proper education must be given… the education system must be revamped. The political system must be revamped. And these must be also reformed, revamped along the way. But if you, if a group recognizes an ugly behaviour or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition.”

Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly, and others do not accept your behaviour, that they’re denying your freedom?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Former President

Persecution and Discrimination


The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Iran indicated that the law’s failure to distinguish between consensual and non-consensual same-sex intimacy led to both the victim and perpetrator being held criminally liable in cases of assault.


The US Department of State’s Human Rights Report on Iran states that “security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being gay or transgender”, and in some cases security forces raided houses and monitored internet sites for information on LGBT persons.

According to international and local media reports, on 13 April at least 30 men suspected of homosexual conduct were arrested by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps agents at a private party in Isfahan Province, and weapons were allegedly used. According to the Canadian NGO, Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees, those arrested were taken to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan where they were told they would be executed. The Iranian LGBT activist group 6Rang noted that, following similar raids, those arrested and similarly charged were subjected to forced “anal” or “sodomy” tests and other degrading treatment and sexual insults.


In June, Hossein Alizadeh, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (now OutRight Action International), testified to the US Joint Subcommittee Hearing: One Year under Rouhani: Iran’s Absysmal Human Rights Record, commenting on the human rights abuses of LGBT individuals in Iran: The criminal law notes that adult same-sex sexual acts are punishable by death. These legal provisions are based on a reading of religion that considers any sexual act outside heterosexual marriage to be impermissible. The punishment is severe, and this view continues to be expressed in the public spheres of many countries, including the United States. In today’s Iran, any open conversation or discussion about sexual rights, gender equality, and homosexuality is met with violent reaction from both the judicial and law enforcement bodies.”

Unlike many countries, Iran does allow for legal gender change. Whilst this does provide some potential reprieve for LGBT individuals in the country, the requirement of sterilisation can add an additional burden to those individuals not wishing to be captured by the country’s anti-homosexuality provisions. As a 2014 report submitted to the UPR for Iran comments: “The choices are stark. Undergo reparative therapies, hormone treatments and sterilization surgeries in order to obtain legal gender recognition, which would then ensure the right to have privacy, marry and found a family, and access education and employment without discrimination on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation? Or preserve the right to sexual and reproductive health by refusing to undergo hormone treatments and sterilization surgeries, resulting in lack of legal gender recognition and continuous exposure to discrimination, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment?” It should be noted that the Special Rapporteur on torture has recommended that forced or coerced sterilisation for legal gender recognition should be outlawed.

Legislative News


During its second UPR cycle, Iran noted all the recommendations it received concerning decriminalising consensual same-sex activities between adults, preventing discrimination against LGBT individuals, and preventing any practice which can harm their dignity, such as unnecessary sex reassignment surgery, especially when carried out without duly informed consent.


In 2009 a new Penal Code was ratified by the Islamic Consultative Assembly and again by the Guardian Council in 2013.


During its first UPR cycle, Iran rejected recommendations to decriminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations: “The principled position of Iran on sexual orientation is crystal clear. The issue of same sex marriage is in full contradiction with domestic laws and regulations and Iran does consider it neither as legal issue nor as an issue of human rights”.

1. Penal Code 2013, Art. 233-234 Livat

“Article 233

Livat is defined as penetration of a man’s sex organ (penis), up to the point of circumcision, into another male person’s anus.

Article 234

The hadd punishment for livat shall be the death penalty for the insertive/active party if he has committed livatby using force, coercion, or in cases where he meets the conditions for ihsan; otherwise, he shall be sentenced to one hundred lashes. The hadd punishment for the receptive/passive party, in any case (whether or not he meets the conditions for ihsan) shall be the death penalty.

Note 1- If the insertive/active party is a non-Muslim and the receptive/passive party is a Muslim, the hadd punishment for the insertive/active party shall be the death penalty.

Note 2- Ihsan is defined as a status that a man is married to a permanent and pubescent wife and whilst he has been sane and pubescent has had a vaginal intercourse with the same wife while she was pubescent, and he can have an intercourse with her in the same way [vaginal] whenever he so wishes.” Full text.

2. Penal Code 2013, Art. 235-236 Tafkhiz

“Article 235

Tafkhiz is defined as putting a man’s sex organ (penis) between the thighs or buttocks of another male person.

Note- A penetration [of a penis into another male person’s anus] that does not reach the point of circumcision shall be regarded as tafkhiz.

Article 236

In the case of tafkhiz, the hadd punishment for the active and passive party shall be one hundred lashes and it shall make no difference whether or not the offender meets the conditions of ihsan [mentioned in note 2 of article 234], or whether or not [the offender] has resorted to coercion.

Note- If the active party is a non-Muslim and the passive party is a Muslim, the hadd punishment for the active party shall be the death penalty.” Full text.

3. Penal Code 2013, Art. 237 Other Homosexual Acts

“Article 237

Homosexual acts of a male person in cases other than livat and tafkhiz, such as kissing or touching as a result of lust, shall be punishable by thirty-one to seventy-four lashes of ta’zir punishment of the sixth grade.

Note 1- This article shall be equally applicable in the case of a female person.

Note 2- This article shall not be applicable in the cases punishable by a hadd punishment under Shari’a rules.” Full text.

4. Penal Code 2013, Article 238-240 Musaheqeh

“Article 238

Musaheqeh is defined as where a female person puts her sex organ on the sex organ of another person of the same sex.

Article 239

The hadd punishment for musaheqeh shall be one hundred lashes.

Article 240

Regarding the hadd punishment for musaheqeh, there is no difference between the active or passive parties or between Muslims and non-Muslims, or between a person that meets the conditions for ihsan and a person who does not, and also whether or not [the offender] has resorted to coercion.” Full text.


5. UK Home Office

UK Home Office, ‘Iran Country of Origin Information (COI) Report’ (Gov UK 26 September 2013), accessed 20 September 2014.

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