Iraq passes bill sentencing same-sex acts to jail

Iraq's parliament has passed a bill on criminalizing same-sex relations, which will receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, in a move rights groups condemned as an "attack on human rights."

Transgender people will be sentenced to three years' jail under the amendments to a 1988 anti-prostitution law, which were adopted during a session attended by 170 out of 329 lawmakers.

A previous draft had proposed capital punishment for same-sex relations, in what campaigners had called a "dangerous" escalation.

The new amendments enable courts to sentence people engaging in same-sex relations to between 10 to 15 years in prison, according to the document seen by AFP.

They also set a minimum seven-year prison term for "promoting" same-sex relations and a sentence ranging from one to three years for men who "intentionally" act like women.

The amended law makes "biological sex change based on personal desire and inclination" a crime and punishes transgender people and doctors who perform gender-affirming surgery with up to three years in prison.

There had not previously been a law that explicitly punished same-sex relations in Iraq.

"Iraq has effectively codified in law the discrimination and violence members of the LGBTI community have been subjected to with absolute impunity for years," said Amnesty International's Iraq researcher Razaw Salihy.

The amendments also ban organizations that "promote" homosexuality and punish "wife swapping" with a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.

The U.S. State Department is "deeply concerned" about the legislation, spokesman Matt Miller said, adding that the law threatens those most at risk in Iraqi society and "undermines the government's political and economic reform...

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