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Iraq bans media from using terms ‘homosexuality’ and ‘gender’

Amnesty International has called for the decision to be reversed

By Charlotte Manning

Iraqi flag
The media has been banned from using the term 'homosexual' and 'gender' (Image: HUSSEIN FALEH/AFP via Getty Images)

Iraq’s official media regulator has issued a new directive preventing media from using the terms “homosexual” or “homosexuality”. 

Instead, they have been instructed to use the term “sexual deviancy”. 

The Media and Communications Commission has also instructed that the word “gender” is refrained from being used.

This would prohibit all phone and internet companies licensed from using any of these terms on mobile applications.

“The insistence that media use ‘sexual deviance’ instead is a dangerous move”

The regulator “directs media organisations … not to use the term ‘homosexuality’ and to use the correct term ‘sexual deviance,’” a statement issued in Arabic said.

While there are no specific penalties in place for those who do not follow the new directive, fines could be introduced. 

The nation doesn’t explicitly criminalise homosexuality. However, loosely defined “public morals” clauses in Iraq’s penal code have been used to target the LGBTQ+ community. 

The charity Amnesty International has come out to criticise the move, dubbing it “dangerous.”

Amnesty’s Middle East deputy director Aya Majzoub said: “The directive from Iraq’s official media regulator is the latest in a series of attacks on freedom of expression under the guise of respect for ‘public morals’.

“The CMC’s ban of the word ‘homosexuality’ and insistence that media use ‘sexual deviance’ instead is a dangerous move. It can fuel discrimination and violent attacks against members of the LGBTI community.

“Furthermore, its ban and demonisation of the word ‘gender’ demonstrates a callous disregard for combatting gender-based violence. This is at a time when civil society has been reporting an increase in crimes against women and girls, amid widespread impunity.”

In recent months, major Iraqi parties have increased attacks on LGBTQ+ rights. Rainbow flags have been burnt in protests by Shi’ite Muslim factions.

In Iraq, LGBTQ+ people do not have any legal protections in place against discrimination. 

Publicly gay men are not allowed to serve in the military. Same-sex marriage or civil unions are also illegal.