A new UN report on human rights conditions in Iran paints a bleak and disturbing picture. UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran Javaid Rehman expressed concern over a wide range of violations, among them the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, including children.
The LGBTQI+ community in Iran faces severe abuse and harassment by authorities. Consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex is criminalized in Iran, and the death sentence can be imposed as a penalty. Special Rapporteur Rehman wrote in his report, “The criminalization of same-sex consensual acts legitimizes violence by State actors and private individuals, including the use of torture, beatings and rape by law enforcement and vigilantes.”
Of particularly great concern, Mr. Rehman cited reports that LGBTQI+ children were subjected to electric shocks, the administration of hormones and strong psychoactive medications – practices, the UN report said, that “amount to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and violate the State’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the child.”
The U.S. State Department’s most recent human rights report on Iran also noted violations targeting the LGBTQI+ community, including death or flogging as punishments for consensual sexual activity, as well as summary trials for those accused of “sodomy.” Additionally, the State Department noted that security forces “harassed, arrested and detained individuals they suspected of being LGBTI” and cited reports from NGOs that “authorities pressured LGBTI persons to undergo gender reassignment surgery.”
On February 4, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a presidential memorandum which declared, “It shall be the policy of the United States to pursue an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, and to lead by the power of our example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.”
In a statement on the same day, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the struggle to end the abuses committed against LGBTQI+ persons “a global challenge that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals.”
The United States urges all countries, including Iran, to repeal laws that criminalize individuals on the basis of sexual identity and/or gender identity. As Secretary Blinken has made clear, “advancing human rights for all individuals, with no exception or caveat, is a U.S. foreign policy priority.”