Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises sexual activity between females

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 1949, which criminalises acts of ‘unnatural sexual intercourse’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment. Both men and women are criminalised under this law.

Syria gained its independence from France in 1946, and adopted its first post-independence penal code in 1949. France had not criminalised same-sex sexual activity for more than a century, meaning that the criminalising provision in Syria is of local origin.

There is some evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with LGBT people being occasionally subject to arrest by state authorities. Additionally, since the Revolution in 2011 and the ensuing conflict, LGBT people have regularly been detained and executed by militant groups which have controlled parts of Syria. There have been consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in recent years, including murder, assault, sexual violence, harassment, and blackmail.



An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 200 Syrians are currently in prison convicted of gay sex.


The US Department of State report noted that although there were no reports of police enforcement during the year, in previous years prosecutions had been brought against LGBT people. NGOs reported that the regime had arrested dozens of LGBT people since 2011 on a range of charges. Furthermore, several militant groups have been reported as detaining, torturing, and killing LGBT people in recent years.


A report by the UN Human Rights Council documented the sexual and gender-based violence committed in Syria during the conflict that followed the 2011 Revolution. In regard to LGBT people, it documented that during the height of its control over parts of Syria, ISIL regularly executed people accused of same-sex sexual activity. This included an incident in which a teenage boy was thrown off a building, having been accused of ‘sodomy’. The report concluded that this treatment constituted a crime against humanity.


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.

Discrimination and Violence


The US Department of State report noted 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 blackmailing and harassing LGBT people.

A report by Human Rights Watch documented the sexual violence faced by gay and bisexual men and transgender women during the conflict. It reported increased and intensified violence, including rape, sexual harassment, genital violence, threat of rape, and forced nudity. Survivors suffer from various psychological and physical traumas.


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

report from Human Rights Watch in April documents a number of incidents 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.


Related Countries


Lebanon criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment.


Iraq criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Possible sentences are unclear, but the death penalty has been imposed on LGBT people.

Saudi Arabia

Country profile of Saudi Arabia. LGBT people are Saudi Arabia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death. under Sharia Law.

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