Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance 1936, S. 152(2) Sexual Acts Between Men

Section 152(2) of the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance 1936, which is still in force in Gaza, criminalises carnal knowledge “against the order of nature” with a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment.1



On 17 August, the Palestinian Authority police issued a statement banning all activities of LGBT rights organisation alQaws and calling on citizens to report any ‘suspicious’ activities. Police spokesperson Col. Louai Irzeiqat, described the activities of alQaws as “a blow to, and violation of, the ideals and values of Palestinian society.”

In responding to the ban, alQaws made the following statement on social media:

“alQaws condemns the use of prosecution, intimidation, and threats of arrest, be it by the police or members of society. We have always been public and accessible about our work, through maintaining an active website, social media presence, and engagement in civil society. However, we have never received threats to this extent before. This backlash paves the way for unethical media practices to thrive by adopting and fueling violent discourse that is gaining traction and legitimacy in social media. We believe that the police and Palestinian society at large should focus on combatting the occupation and other forms of violence that tear apart the sensitive fabric of our society and values, instead of prosecuting activists who work tirelessly to end all forms of violence.

This recent backlash is in direct response to the dismantling of societal denial regarding the existence of LGBTQ Palestianians! For the past couple of weeks, alQaws and LGBTQ Palestinians have faced an unprecedented amount of violence and incitement, which has escalated in the last couple of days. However, it is clear that this backlash is the response to twenty years plus of field-work. That and alQaws’ strategic focus in the past few years to challenge society’s denial through various grassroots professional and community initiatives.”


The US Department of State Human Rights Report states that Palestinian authorities in the West Bank did not prosecute individuals suspected of acting same-sex activity during the year. While NGOs reported that Hamas in Gaza detained persons due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and Palestinian Authorities harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested LGBT individuals too.

Persecution and Discrimination


In April, al-Qaws for sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society, which is a national, grassroots LGBT organisation, published a poster talking about the violence against LGBT people. The poster targeted journalists, therapists and educators/teachers.


The US Department of State Human Rights Report states that societal discrimination based on cultural and religious traditions was commonplace in the West Bank and Gaza. Some Palestinians claimed PA security officers and neighbors harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested LGBT individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In February, the Palestinian Attorney General’s moved to prosecute writer Abbad Yahya, banning his novel and accusing him of threatening morality and public decency in his novel “Crime in Ramallah”. The novel explores the themes of politics, religion and homosexuality through its protagonists.


A gay Palestinian granted asylum in Norway claims he was subjected to torture after pictures were discovered of him on a friend’s phone and he was accused of being an Israeli spy. The article describes high levels of societal discrimination.

A number of reports, including the UK’s 2012 Country of Origin Report on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, suggest that gay men are subjected to blackmail by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities: “Palestinians… are coerced into undercover work for the Palestinian authorities, and one nineteen-year-old runaway stated in an interview with Israeli television that he had been pressurised by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to become a suicide bomber in order to purge his moral guilt, though he had refused.”

Reports suggest a high level of surveillance from Israel, with LGBT Palestinians being targeted for information due to the persecution they would face if their sexuality were to become discovered. The Guardian released testimony from individuals working in the Israeli Intelligence Corps, one of whom made the following claim: “If you’re homosexual and know someone who knows a wanted person – and we need to know about it – Israel will make your life miserable. If you need emergency medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank or abroad – we searched for you. The state of Israel will allow you to die before we let you leave for treatment without giving information on your wanted cousin. If you interest Unit 8200 as a technological unit, and don’t have anything to do with any hostile activity, you’re an objective.”


An article by the BBC indicates that in the past gay Palestinian men have “risked their lives” to cross the border into Israel in order to escape persecution, despite levels of animosity between the two states. Reports suggest that gay men are forced to seek shelter in Israel, but are refused on account of their nationality. Fleeing in itself can prove dangerous. As the UK Country of Origin Report notes: “As far as most Palestinians are concerned, fleeing into Israel is a betrayal of their cause, while gay men who remain in the Palestinian territories also come under suspicion”.

1. British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance 1936, S. 152(2) Sexual Acts Between Men

“(2) Any person who:—

(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or

(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature,

is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for ten years.” Full text.

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