Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
Penal Code 1953, Article 407(4) Illicit Sexual Intercourse

Article 407(4) criminalises “[illicit] sexual intercourse”, punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment. Both men and women are subject to this law.1

Penal Code 1953, Article 408(4) Indecent Act

Article 408(4) criminalises anyone who “commits an indecent act with a partner with his consent”, punishable with imprisonment.



Human Rights Watch’s World Report noted that “activists report that several armed groups have arrested, abducted, and tortured men suspected of homosexuality in recent years.”


The US Department of State Human Rights Report for Libya stated that in the areas that are under control of the militias, they often policed communities to enforce compliance with militia commanders’ understanding of “Islamic” behaviour, harassing and threatening with impunity individuals believed to have LGBT orientations and their families.


In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights examined the question of persecution in Libya in the case of M.E. v Sweden. The case found no evidence of prosecutions since Gaddafi: “[T]he Court notes that, since the overthrow of Gadhafi in 2011, the situation in Libya has been, and continues to be, insecure and unclear as to the direction the country is taking. Consequently, there is also only little and varying information about the situation for homosexuals in Libya, making it difficult for the Court to make an evaluation of this matter. Although it is clear that homosexual acts are punishable by imprisonment under Articles 407 and 408 of the Libyan Penal Code, the applicant has not presented, and the Court has not found, any information or public record of anyone actually having been prosecuted or convicted under these provisions for homosexual acts since the end of Gadhafi’s regime in 2011. Thus, while having regard to the fact that homosexuality is a taboo subject and seen as an immoral activity against Islam in Libya, the Court does not have sufficient foundation to conclude that the Libyan authorities actively persecute homosexuals.”


A Libyan LGBT activist, “Khaleed”, interviewed in 2012 after the fall of Gaddafi, reported only ever hearing of one case of the law being enforced, which was in 2010 where two men were arrested for indecent acts.

Statements by Public Figures


Upon Libya’s reinstatement to the UN Human Rights Council, the Libyan delegate reportedly told ambassadors that LGBT issues: “affect religion and the continuation and reproduction of the human race.” He intimated that Libya would not have supported the Council’s 2011 resolution on Sexual Orientation should its membership have not been temporarily suspended at the time of the vote.

[LGBT issues] affect religion and the continuation and reproduction of the human race.

Libya Delegate to the Human Rights Council


Persecution and Discrimination


The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Libya reported that there was little available information on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which observers indicated could be attributable to the threat of violence or abuse for reporting such incidents. The report further stated that there were reports of physical violence, harassment, and blackmail based on sexual orientation and gender identity.


In November, a number of gay men were “arrested” by the Nawasi brigade, a Libyan paramilitary group, said at the time to be working under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. Whilst early reports suggested that the men, who were captured at a birthday party, were going to be executed, the group denied that the men were detained on account of their sexuality and they were released a week later, bruised and with their heads shaven.

It is difficult to fully ascertain the level of persecution in Libya following the fall of Gaddafi – one report in March suggested that LGBT issues have been used to both “delegitimise” the Gaddafi regime, and to warn against adopting liberal values.

Legislative News


In its second UPR cycle, Libya did not receive any recommendations concerning LGBT rights in the country.


One recommendation was made for the country to examine their laws criminalising consensual sex outside of wedlock. The country agreed to examine the recommendation, but this was postponed due to the Arab Spring revolution.

1. Penal Code 1953, Article 407(4) Illicit Sexual Intercourse

“Whoever has [illicit] sexual intercourse with another person with their consent shall be punished along with their partner with imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years”. Full text.

2. Penal Code 1953, Article 408(4) Indecent Act

“Whoever commits an indecent act
with a partner with his consent will be
punished with his partner with
imprisonment.” Full text.

Keep in Touch

Sign up to our newsletter for updates on key legal challenges to anti-LGBT laws around the world, news on the reform of discriminatory laws in the Commonwealth, comment from our Director on landmark judgments and employment opportunities at the Trust.