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Algeria

Bahrain

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law does not criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults at least age 21, but it allots fines, imprisonment, deportation, or any of them for persons engaging in “immoral behavior,” and this provision has been used against individuals suspected of being LGBTQI+ or cross-dressing.

The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQI+ individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity occurred, including in employment and obtaining legal identity documents. In some cases, however, courts permitted transgender individuals to update identity documents if they had undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Egypt

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

While the law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons were arrested and prosecuted on charges such as “debauchery,” “prostitution,” and “violating family values,” for which the law provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years. According to a local rights group, there were more than 250 reports of such arrests since 2013. Rights groups and activists reported harassment by police, including physical assault and forced payment of bribes to provide information concerning other LGBTQI+ individuals or to avoid arrest. There were reports that authorities used social media, dating websites, and mobile phone apps to entrap persons they suspected of being gay or transgender, a method LGBTQI+ advocates described as especially effective since LGBTQI+-friendly public spaces had largely closed in recent years. Rights groups reported that authorities, including the Forensic Medical Authority, conducted forced anal examinations, which rights groups indicated primarily targeted LGBTQI+ individuals. The law allows for conducting forced anal exams in cases of “debauchery.”

Authorities did not use antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQI+ individuals. Legal discrimination and social stigma impeded LGBTQI+ persons from organizing or advocating publicly in defense of their rights. Information was not available on discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination. There were reports of arrests and harassment of LGBTQI+ individuals. Intimidation and the risk of arrest greatly restricted open reporting and contributed to self-censorship. The government has the authority to deport or bar entry to the country of LGBTQI+ foreigners.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate allows for gender-affirming treatment with approval by a special committee composed of medical doctors and al-Azhar clergy, according to international media citing a local LGBTQI+ activist on February 6. The committee relies on a fatwa that stipulates gender affirming treatment must be “medically necessary” and justified by a “biological,” not a “mental” matter. According to Human Rights Watch, the surgery was allowed only for intersex persons, which left transgender individuals to seek treatment from unregulated and often unsafe clinics. On August 26, according to Human Rights Watch, Ezz Eldin, a 26-year-old transgender man, bled to death following surgery in an underground clinic.

On May 6, border guards prevented two transgender Israelis from entering Sinai for tourism because they did not appear to belong to the sex listed in their passports.

According to a LGBTQI+ rights organization 2020 annual report issued in January, authorities arrested 25 LGBTQI+ individuals in 2020 and conducted forced anal exams on six persons.

Iran

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable by death, flogging, or a lesser punishment.  The law does not distinguish between consensual and nonconsensual same-sex intercourse, and NGOs reported this lack of clarity led to both the victim and the perpetrator being held criminally liable under the law in cases of assault.  The law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

While few details were available for specific cases, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) activists expressed concern that the government executed LGBTQI+ individuals under the pretext of more severe, and possibly specious, criminal charges such as rape. Security forces harassed, arrested, and detained individuals they suspected of being LGBTQI+. In some cases security forces raided houses and monitored internet sites for information on LGBTQI+ persons. Those accused of “sodomy” often faced summary trials, and evidentiary standards were not always met. The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang) noted that individuals arrested under such conditions were traditionally subjected to forced anal or sodomy examinations – which the United Nations and World Health Organization stated may constitute torture – and other degrading treatment and sexual insults. Punishment for same-sex sexual activity between men was more severe than between women.

According to Amnesty International, on May 4, 20-year-old Alireza Fazeli Monfared, who identified as a nonbinary gay man, was abducted by male relatives in his hometown of Ahwaz in Khuzestan Province. The next day these men reportedly told Monfared’s mother they had killed him and dumped his body under a tree. Authorities confirmed his throat was slit and announced an investigation; however, according to Amnesty International in September, none of the suspected perpetrators had been arrested.

According to an August factsheet by CHRI, a 2020 survey by 6Rang of more than 200 individuals living in the country and identifying as LGBTQI+ found that 46 percent reported being victims of sexual violence at their school or university, 49 percent reported being victims of sexual violence by their peers, and more than 52 percent reported being victims of sexual violence in public spaces. Anonymous respondents reported being beaten, detained, and flogged by security authorities.

The government censored all materials related to LGBTQI+ status or conduct. Authorities particularly blocked websites or content within sites that discussed LGBTQI+ issues, including the censorship of Wikipedia pages defining LGBTQI+ and other related topics. There were active, unregistered LGBTQI+ NGOs and activists in the country.

In 2019 a revolutionary court sentenced Rezvaneh Mohammadi, a gender-equality activist, to five years in prison. According to CHRI, authorities arrested Mohammadi in 2018 and held her in solitary confinement for several weeks at Evin Prison, where they pressured her, including via threat of rape, to confess to receiving money to overthrow the government. Mohammadi was reportedly freed on bail.

Hate-crime laws or other criminal justice mechanisms do not exist to aid in the prosecution of bias-motivated crimes.

The law requires all male citizens older than age 18 to serve in the military but exempts gay men and transgender women, who are classified as having mental disorders. Military identity cards list the subsection of the law dictating the exemption. According to 6Rang, this practice identified gay or transgender individuals and put them at risk of physical abuse and discrimination.

While LGBTQI+ status and conduct are criminalized, many clerics believed that LGBTQI+ persons were trapped in a body of the wrong sex, and NGOs reported that authorities pressured LGBTQI+ persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Reports indicated these procedures disregarded psychological and physical health and that many persons recommended for surgery did not identify as transgender but were forced to comply to avoid punishment for their LGBTQI+ identity. According to a July 2020 report by 6Rang, the number of private and semigovernmental psychological and psychiatric clinics allegedly engaging in “corrective treatment” or reparative therapies of LGBTQI+ persons continued to grow. The NGO 6Rang reported the increased use at such clinics of electric shock therapy to the hands and genitals of LGBTQI+ persons, prescription of psychoactive medication, hypnosis, and coercive masturbation to pictures of persons of the opposite sex. According to 6Rang, one such institution was called the Anonymous Sex Addicts Association of Iran, with branches in 18 provinces.

Iraq

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct if those engaging in the conduct are younger than age 18, while it does not criminalize any same-sex activities among adults. Despite repeated threats and violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals, specifically gay men, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals. Some political parties sought to justify these attacks, and investigators often refused to employ proper investigation procedures. LGBTQI+ individuals also faced intimidation, threats, violence, and discrimination, and LGBTQI+ individuals reported they could not live openly without fear of violence at the hands of family members, acquaintances, or strangers.

In June a transgender woman named Misho, also known as Shakib, disappeared in Sidakan while attempting to retrieve documents from her father to renew her passport. NGO contacts reported her father and brother killed Misho, but the KRG was still investigating the case and no arrest warrants had been issued as of December 22. Security forces launched an operation to arrest “suspected” LGBTQI+ individuals in the city of Sulaymaniyah. Operation supervisor Pshtiwan Bahadin told local media that security forces arrested those they suspected to be LGBTQI+ for immorality and used derogatory terms to describe the community. The KRG subsequently put out a statement denying that LGBTQI+ persons were targeted and stated security forces were breaking up commercial sex rings.

According to NGOs, persons in the country who experienced severe discrimination, torture, physical injury, and the threat of death based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics had no recourse to challenge those actions via courts or government institutions. During the year the IKR NGO Rasan faced three lawsuits, including one brought by Sulaymaniyah officials of the KRG Directorate of NGOs, which alleged Rasan violated the terms of the NGO bylaws and its registration (to work on gender-based violence and women’s matters) by providing services to and advocacy for LGBTQI+ individuals. A decision remained pending at year’s end.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, including in goods, services, and employment. The government generally enforced the law, although some discrimination, including in employment and housing, persisted against LGBTQI+ persons. Intersex, transgender, and other gender diverse persons lack protections from discrimination based on gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.

On March 23, Avi Maoz, the head of the Noam Party which ran on an anti-LGBTQI+ platform, was elected to the Knesset as a part of the Religious Zionist Party. On August 2, Maoz compared homosexuality to pedophilia. On August 4, Religious Zionist head Bezalel Smotrich stated a pride parade caused the country’s fourth wave of COVID-19. The Ministry of Education rejected his statement, and Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz referred to the statement as a combination of ignorance, populism, frustration, and hate.

Some violent incidents against LGBTQI+ individuals during the year led to arrests and police investigations. For example, on April 4, a group of 15 youth attacked a man in Rishon LeZion after asking him if he was gay. They punched and kicked him until he was rescued by a taxi driver, who took him to his friend’s car. The group then vandalized and caused damage to the car. Police detained and released two individuals as a part of their investigation. As of the year’s end, there were no indictments in the case.

On August 8, two siblings were charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder as a part of a plea bargain after stabbing their 16-year-old brother outside an LGBTQI+ youth shelter in 2019 due to his sexual orientation. They were sentenced to 14 years’ and six years’ imprisonment, a fine, and payment of compensation to the survivor. A third individual, a friend of the siblings, was convicted of aiding and abetting the crime and sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, a fine, and payment of compensation to the survivor.

On August 10, the Tel Aviv District Court ordered the release of an ultra-Orthodox minor from a psychiatric ward on the grounds that his family had pushed for his forced hospitalization due to his perceived sexual orientation. The family initially argued that the minor was aggressive and threatening but during the appeal, which was submitted by the minor with the assistance of the Ministry of Justice, retracted this statement. The court ruled a major reason for the hospitalization was the clash due to the parent’s values regarding the minor’s homosexuality and added that sexual orientation does not justify forced hospitalization.

Conversion therapy took place mainly within Jewish and Muslim religious communities. The law allows for conversion therapy, but the Ministry of Health has warned the public against it, and Israeli mental health associations considered it an ethical and professional offense.

On June 29, the head of the Mitzpe Ramon local council published a letter indicating his opposition to holding the city’s first pride parade. He wrote that he did not recognize the pride flag and refused to refer to LGBTQI+ persons as a community, only as individuals who are not ordinary who should not “externalize their sexual orientation.” He speculated that the real goal of the community wasn’t to legitimize same-sex attraction but rather to “break the social solidarity while challenging norms that bring society together – religion, nationality, and family.” In place of a pride parade, the LGBTQI+ community held a demonstration in Mitzpe Ramon that was attended by hundreds.

Jordan

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

While consensual same-sex sexual conduct among adults is not criminalized, societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons was prevalent. According to a security official, these relationships were largely seen as “unacceptable by Jordan’s conservative society.” LGBTQI+ persons were frequently targets of violence and abuse, including rape, with little legal recourse against perpetrators. Transgender individuals were especially vulnerable to acts of violence and sexual assault, and authorities provided them with no legal protection. Local activists reported a significant increase in the number of cases of LGBTQI+ individuals seeking support or reporting domestic violence during COVID-related lockdowns.

The law does not prohibit discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals. LGBTQI+ community leaders reported that most LGBTQI+ individuals kept their sexual orientation or gender identity secret due to fear of societal or government discrimination. LGBTQI+ individuals reported their reluctance to engage the legal system due to fear their sexual orientation or gender identity would provoke hostile reactions from police, disadvantage them in court, or be used to shame them or their families publicly. Some LGBTQI+ individuals reported that authorities responded appropriately to reports of crime in some cases.

Authorities arrested LGBTQI+ individuals on the pretext of violating public order or public decency ordinances. LGBTQI+ citizens faced regular administrative or arbitrary detentions, harassment including informal interrogation, and monitoring from state actors. During the year authorities shut down at least two events associated with the LGBTQI+ community and arrested participants under public decency laws. Activists planned a virtual event in mid-June to discuss the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. A member of parliament declared the event contradictory to the country’s values and traditions, referred to LGBTQI+ persons using denigrating terminology, and alerted the Ministry of Interior, which subsequently shut down the virtual event. Authorities also arrested 14 individuals in July during an LGBTQI+ gathering at a private residence after monitoring their social media pages.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community confirmed they generally lacked safe spaces and reported being targeted by the police upon leaving any of the few associated with the community. In July an NGO reported police detained 30 visitors at the NGO’s center on suspicion of “Satan worship,” a justification sometimes used to harass LGBTQI+ persons, according to NGO representatives. Authorities later claimed the NGO conducted “public LGBTQI+ activities.” Police released 12 individuals within 24 hours of the incident and released the remaining 18 within days. None of the individuals were officially charged.

LGBTQI+ persons reported discrimination in housing, employment, education, and access to public services. Individuals have reported being fired from jobs or denied professional opportunities because of their LGBTQI+ identity. Some experienced extortion and threats of being fired, disinherited, disowned, arrested, or prosecuted. Several LGBTQI+ individuals found it impossible to live in the country due to their LGBTQI+ identity and therefore left the country or were in the process of doing so. Many feared for their lives or abuse at the hands of family members or authorities. Parents were customarily allowed to request informal “warrants” from security services for children, including adult-age children, to suspend their movement inside the country, prevent travel abroad, or require authorities to forcibly return them to family custody, even if family members had previously threatened that person’s life. In cosmopolitan circles, a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy loosely allowed LGBTQI+ individuals to socialize discreetly. LGBTQI+ members of the growing working classes and refugee communities were more vulnerable to police harassment and assault with impunity than individuals who belonged to politically connected families or to tribes the authorities were hesitant to harass.

Relatively few shelters accepted LGBTQI+ cases, and the facilities and NGOs that served the community lacked sufficient funding and services.

Open discussion of LGBTQI+ individuals and topics was controversial due to a generally traditional culture among all citizens, regardless of faith. The Media Commission banned books and blocked websites containing LGBTQI+ content. Government regulations on NGO registration and foreign funding largely prevented civil society groups from working on activities with perceived links to the LGBTQI+ community.

Kuwait

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Police incited, perpetrated, condoned, and tolerated violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. Transgender persons reported cases of repeated harassment, detention, abuse, and rape by police, who blackmailed and raped them without fear of reprisal. Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men and imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex are illegal. The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between men older than age 21 with imprisonment of up of to seven years; those engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity with men younger than age 21 may be imprisoned for up to 10 years. No laws criminalize same-sex sexual activity between women. The law criminalizes and imposes a fine and imprisonment for one-to-three years for persons imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public. These penalties were enforced.

The Criminal Court sentenced a transgender woman, Maha al-Mutairi, to prison for two years and fined her 1,000 dinars ($3,315) in October for “imitating the opposite sex” in her online activities and for “misusing phone communication.” In June 2020 al-Mutairi asserted on social media that she was targeted by police based on her gender identity and she was sexually assaulted and raped by police officers. Authorities held al-Mutairi in solitary confinement at the central prison for men. In late November the Court of Appeals issued an amended verdict sentencing al-Mutairi to one month in prison and a fine of approximately 500 dinars ($1,650). Since al-Mutairi had been imprisoned since October, she was released for completing the one-month sentence in late November. Societal discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity occurred. Officials practiced such discrimination, usually upon discovering that a person stopped for a traffic violation did not appear to be the gender indicated on the identification card.

No registered NGOs focused on LGBTQI+ matters, although unregistered ones existed. Due to social convention and potential repression, LGBTQI+ organizations neither operated openly nor held LGBTQI+ human rights advocacy events or Pride marches.

Lebanon

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law prohibits “sexual intercourse against nature” and effectively criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Due to recent legal decisions, some government and judicial officials, along with NGOs and legal experts, question whether same-sex sexual conduct actually fits that legal definition. The law was occasionally enforced in civilian and military courts, and it carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.

No provisions of law provide antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQI+ persons based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. NGOs continued to report employment discrimination faced by transgender women due to the inconsistency between official documentation and gender self-presentation.

NGOs stated that official and societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons persisted. Observers received reports from LGBTQI+ refugees of physical abuse by local gangs, which the victims did not report to the ISF. Observers referred victims to UNHCR-sponsored protective services.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NGOs noted that the government-enforced lockdown posed increased risks to the LGBTQI+ community, which depended on community centers, tight social networks, and NGOs for emotional and financial support. NGOs also reported that the August 2020 Beirut port explosion destroyed areas frequented and inhabited by LGBTQI+ members, which severely impacted their livelihoods and well-being.

The DGS continued to maintain a travel ban on foreign attendees of the Networking, Exchange, Development, Wellness, and Achievement (NEDWA) sexual health conference, which was organized by LGBTQI+ rights NGO Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality (AFE). Starting in 2019 this conference was relocated outside of the country due to security concerns following DGS and other agencies’ threats to expose attendees from LGBTQI+-hostile countries to their governments.

The government did not collect information on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or lack of access to education or health care based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals who faced problems were reluctant to report incidents due to fear of additional discrimination or reprisal. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

Libya

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Societal discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons persisted, and official discrimination was codified in local interpretations of sharia. Convictions of same-sex sexual activity carry sentences of three to five years’ imprisonment. The law provides for punishment of both parties.

There was little information on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care. Observers noted that the threat of possible violence or abuse could intimidate persons who reported such discrimination.

There were reports of physical violence, harassment, and blackmail based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Armed groups often policed communities to enforce compliance with their commanders’ understanding of “Islamic” behavior, harassing and threatening with impunity individuals believed to have LGBTQI+ orientations and their families.

Morocco

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison for violations. According to a report by the Prosecutor General’s Office released in 2020, the state prosecuted individuals in 2020 for same-sex sexual activity. Media and the public addressed questions of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity more openly than in previous years. According to some human rights organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) victims of violence in high-profile cases from previous years continued to be harassed when recognized in public.

In November 2020 an artist was arrested while filing a complaint against an individual for harassment and homophobia. According to the government, his detention did not have to do with his sexual identity, but rather related to violating COVID-19 restrictions. His next hearing was scheduled for September. Antidiscrimination laws do not apply to LGBTQI+ persons, and the penal code does not criminalize hate crimes. There was a stigma against LGBTQI+ persons, including some reports of overt discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, and health care.

Oman

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct and consensual heterosexual sex outside of marriage with a jail term of six months to three years, but it requires a spouse or guardian complaint to initiate prosecution, independent of gender. The government did not actively enforce this provision, and there were no public records of potential prosecutions.

The law identifies “crossdressing” (defined as males dressing in female clothing) as a criminal act punishable by up to one year’s imprisonment, a fine of 100 to 300 rial (approximately $260 to $780), or both.

Public discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity remained a social taboo. There were no known lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) organizations active in the country, although regional human rights organizations focused on the human rights of LGBTQI+ citizens. Authorities took steps to block LGBTQI+-related internet content as well as international films that featured LGBTQI+ characters.

Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There were no government efforts to address discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons.

Qatar

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons faced discrimination under the law and in practice. The law prohibits consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men but does not explicitly prohibit same-sex sexual relations between women. Under the law a man convicted of having sexual relations with a boy younger than age 16 is subject to a sentence of life in prison. A man convicted of having same-sex sexual relations with a male 16 years of age or older may receive a sentence of seven years in prison. Under sharia law homosexuality is punishable by death; there were no reports of any executions for this reason.

In addition to banning sex outside marriage for all persons, the law provides penalties for any male, Muslim or not, who “instigates” or “entices” another male to commit an act of sodomy or immorality. Under the penal code, “leading, instigating, or seducing a male by any means for sodomy or dissipation” and “inducing or seducing a male or a female by any means to commit illegal or immoral actions” is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.

There were no public reports of violence against LGBTQI+ persons, who largely hid their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression due to an underlying pattern of discrimination toward LGBTQI+ persons. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination, nor are there antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBTQI+ individuals on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or gender expression.

Due to social and religious conventions, there were no LGBTQI+ organizations, pride marches, or LGBTQI+ rights advocacy events. Information was not available on official or private discrimination in employment, occupation, housing, statelessness, or access to education or health care based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Saudi Arabia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Under sharia, as interpreted in the country, consensual same-sex sexual conduct is punishable by death or flogging, depending on the perceived seriousness of the case. It is illegal for men “to behave like women” or to wear women’s clothes, and vice versa. Due to social conventions and potential persecution, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) organizations did not operate openly, nor were there LGBTQI+ rights advocacy events of any kind. There were reports of official and societal discrimination, physical violence, and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, and health care. Clerics condemned homosexuality during government-approved Friday sermons at some mosques.

During the year local newspapers featured opinion pieces condemning homosexuality and calling on authorities to punish harshly individuals engaging in same-sex relations.

On October 24, local media reported that Northern Borders Province police arrested and referred for prosecution five men who appeared in public in women’s clothing. The men filmed themselves and posted the video on social media in an apparent attempt to attract more social media followers. A police spokesman described their conduct as “inconsistent with the public morals of society.”

Observers at the December MDLBeast Soundstorm music festival reported that it included the public display of LGBTQI+ culture.

Syria

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, defined as “carnal relations against the order of nature,” and stipulates imprisonment of up to three years. In previous years police used this charge to prosecute LGBTQI+ individuals. There were no reports of prosecutions under the law during the year, but COAR reported the lack of protections in the legal framework created an environment of impunity for rampant, targeted threats and violence against LGBTQI+ individuals. NGO reports indicated the regime had arrested dozens of LGBTQI+ persons since 2011 on charges such as abusing social values; selling, buying, or consuming illegal drugs; and organizing and promoting “obscene” parties.

In June COAR reported that the regime and other armed groups subjected perceived members of the LGBTQI+ community to humiliation, torture, and abuse in detention centers, including rape, forced nudity, and anal or vaginal “examinations.”

Although there were no known domestic NGOs focused on LGBTQI+ matters, there were several online networking communities, including an online magazine. Human rights activists reported there was overt societal discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all aspects of society.

In February the COI reported that ISIS systematically discriminated against LGBTQI+ individuals as a matter of policy. HTS and other armed groups used unauthorized “courts” to impose draconian social restrictions, according to the COI, particularly against women and LGBTQI+ individuals (see section 1.g.).

Tunisia

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Whereas the French version of the law uses only the word “sodomy,” the Arabic version, which takes precedence, specifically mentions homosexual acts between men and between women. Convictions carry up to a three-year prison sentence. According to NGOs authorities occasionally used the law to detain and question persons concerning their sexual activities and sexual orientation, reportedly at times based on appearance alone. NGOs reported that in some instances lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) individuals were targeted under a penal code article criminalizing “infringement of morality or public morals,” which carries a penalty of six months in prison and a fine of 1,000 dinars ($370).

LGBTQI+ individuals continued to face discrimination and violence, including death and rape threats and societal stigma, and fear of prosecution discouraged individuals from reporting discriminatory violence and threats.

Human rights groups reported an increase in arrests of LGBTQI+ individuals by police, as well as cases of societal harassment. Allegations included reports that some police unions targeted LGBTQI+ participants in January and February protests by posting their home addresses or pictures online and engaging in online hate speech. According to the Damj Association, an LGBTQI+ rights NGO, during the year authorities sentenced 28 LGBTQI+ persons under provisions of the criminal code criminalizing “sodomy,” “infringement of morality or public morals,” and “insulting a public official.”

On January 8, police arrested Zizi, a transgender woman, and four other transgender individuals on charges of public indecency and disturbing public morality. The Damj Association issued a statement on January 12 condemning the arrests and calling for the release of Zizi and other LGBTQI+ individuals in detention. The organization noted police officers denied Zizi access to a lawyer despite her request. On January 23, the First Instance Court of Sousse released all five individuals and dropped all charges against them.

After self-described queer activist Rania Amdouni participated in antigovernment protests in January and February, some police unions posted photographs of her on Facebook groups and called for her arrest. On February 27, Amdouni went to a police station in downtown Tunis to press charges against members of the security forces she claimed harassed and followed her. Police arrested her after she reportedly had a verbal altercation with a police officer at the station. On March 4, a Tunis court sentenced her to six months in prison for insulting a public servant. Amdouni’s supporters held a small protest outside of the Tunis court, and civil society organizations denounced her arrest and called for her release. On March 17, the Appeals Court of Tunis fined Amdouni 200 dinars ($75) and ordered her release. On June 24, she announced her departure from the country to seek asylum in France.

On March 22, Damj Association president Badr Baabou reported that four unidentified individuals physically assaulted him on March 10, targeting him for his LGBTQI+ rights advocacy. According to Damj, police officers in a vehicle approximately 65 feet away failed to respond to the physical assault or verbal harassment. Baabou filed a complaint with the public prosecutor’s office against his assailants and the security officials who allegedly did not intervene.

According to the Damj Association, Baabou was assaulted again, this time by two police officers in downtown Tunis, on October 21. According to public reports, the officers struck Baabou with multiple blows to his body and face. The government did not publicly comment on the case. On December 1, the National Police general inspector opened an investigation into the case and requested Damj’s assistance in collecting documents and statements related to reports of police abuse.

On October 26, the First Instance Court of Tunis sentenced the president of LGBTQI+-rights group Shams Association, Mounir Baatour, in absentia to one year in prison for a 2019 Facebook post that allegedly expressed “contempt of the Prophet.” Baatour has been residing outside Tunisia since 2019 after reportedly receiving death threats.

There continued to be no information on official discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, access to education, or health care.

United Arab Emirates

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Both civil law and sharia criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Under sharia individuals who engage in consensual same-sex sexual conduct could be subject to the death penalty. Dubai’s penal code allows for up to a 10-year prison sentence for conviction of such activity, while Abu Dhabi’s penal code allows for up to a 14-year prison sentence. There were no known reports of arrests or prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct.

The law does not extend antidiscrimination protections to LGBTQI+ individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics. There were no government efforts to address potential discrimination.

In November 2020 the penal code dropped a clause criminalizing wearing clothing deemed inappropriate for one’s sex. The law now criminalizes only men who enter a place designated for women while disguised as a woman. The punishment for this infraction is up to one year in jail and a fine of up to AED 100,000 ($27,250).

The law permits doctors to conduct sex reassignment surgery when there are “psychological” and “physiological” signs of gender and sex disparity. The penalty for performing an unwarranted “sex correction” surgery is three to 10 years in prison.

Due to social conventions and potential repression, LGBTQI+ organizations did not operate openly, nor were gay pride marches or gay rights advocacy events held.

West Bank and Gaza

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

PA law in the West Bank does not prohibit consensual same-sex sexual activity. There were reported examples of violence, criminalization or abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity during the year. NGOs reported PA security officers and neighbors harassed, abused, and sometimes arrested individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In Gaza sexual acts “against the order of nature” are criminalized. NGOs reported Hamas security forces harassed and detained persons due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yemen

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The government did not consider violence or discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons “relevant” for official reporting.

The law criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct, with the death penalty as a sanction under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law. There have been no known executions of LGBTQI+ persons in recent years.

Due to the illegality of and possibly severe punishment for consensual same-sex sexual conduct, few LGBTQI+ persons were open regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. Individuals known or suspected of being LGBTQI+ faced discrimination.

There was one active LGBTQI+-related social media site. HRW reported in July 2020 that Saudi Arabia sentenced a Yemeni man who had posted a video advocating for LGBTQI+ rights to 10 months of prison, to be followed by deportation to Yemen, where he feared for his life. No further information was available on his situation.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future