Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
  • Criminalises sex between women
Penal Code 1949, Article 520 Unnatural Sexual Intercourse

Article 520 criminalises “unnatural sexual intercourse” with up to three years imprisonment. It is applicable to intercourse both between men and between women.1



The US Department of State Human Rights Report for Syria states that there were no reports of the law being directly enforced during the year. However, NGO reports showed the government arrested dozens of gay men and lesbians over the past several years on charges such as abusing social values; selling, buying, or consuming illegal drugs; and organising and promoting “obscene” parties.

In August, it was reported that pictures had been released of a man suspected of being gay being thrown from the roof of a building by members of ISIS.


Prior to the Syrian Revolution, an ‘upsurge’ in the number of LGBT individuals being targeted by the country’s laws was noted. Since the Revolution a number of reports suggest that LGBT individuals are now exposed to a double threat of being abused; both by Syrian police and Islamic Extremists.

Statements by Public Figures


A popular Syrian newspaper made a number of comments about LGBT individuals in the country in March, stating that they are “infesting society” and that the Syrian Revolution “gave homosexuals a freedom they would’ve never dreamt of”. Among the claims made in the article is one by an alleged gay Syrian who was raped in Russia: “One night, I was staying with a friend of mine and we got drunk. He and his friends, five of them, locked the door and took turns raping me. At first, I was filled with a destructive, humiliating feeling but the pleasure was overwhelming and I suddenly recognized what I was missing. I then started sleeping with any guy I can get!” The article allegedly included a survey on the number of LGBT individuals that had been raped as a child.


A research document released by the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation (ACCORD) in March includes reference to a statement made by a Syrian Embassy official in London 2008 on the country’s law: “Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, but there are no special units to deal with this problem. People are not prosecuted – society looks at this as a disease for which they can be treated – it is a similar position to that taken by the Vatican. I cannot give a clearer answer.”

Persecution and Discrimination


The US Department of State Human Rights Report on Syria states that human rights activists reported there was overt societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all aspects of society. There were also reports of extremist groups threatening LGBT activists.


A report from Human Rights Watch in April on the threat for gay men in Syria documents a number of incidences of abuse. In one case a gay couple were allegedly forced to have sex with each other in front of army interrogators. A number of individuals told Human Rights Watch of being rejected by their families. Of 19 individuals interviewed, five reported receiving death threats. A number of LGBT people have fled the country into Lebanon, where some have been subjected to further abuse by being forced to undergo anal tests to determine their sexuality.

A report from Amnesty International in February suggests that LGBT asylum seekers from Syria have been subjected to a large degree of abuse in Lebanon, including rape and physical assault.

Legislative News


During its second UPR cycle in March, Syria did not receive any recommendations relating to LGBT rights.

1. Penal Code 1949, Article 520 Unnatural Sexual Intercourse

“Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to three years.” Full text.

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