Homosexual Men in Iran

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice. 10 April 2024

We act on behalf of homosexual men from Iran. Homosexual men face an extremely plausible likelihood of being adversely and harshly treated in Iran by both State and non-State actors.

In 2024, the Asylum Research Centre published an extensive report on the situation and treatment of LGBTQ+ people in Iran. It notes how the legal situation (Iran’s Constitution has Sharia law as a primary source of laws) means that homosexual men will suffer systematic discrimination on the basis of gender and gender expression, and that will include torturing and killing those deemed outside the conformity of traditional gender roles.

The Iranian Constitution does not extend the enjoyment of equal rights and equal protection, nor does it effectively prevent the spreading of hate speech and hate crimes against minorities like the LGBTQ+ community. According to the Criminal Court of Iran, homosexuality is punishable by the death penalty, and as already stated by the UN Security Council, the Criminal Court explicitly criminalises sodomy and male sex acts. The United States Department of State reported that consensual same-sex activity is punishable by death, flogging or lesser punishment, and that the law does not distinguish between consensual and non-consensual same-sex intercourse.

In relation to the social conception of homosexuality in Iran, Iranian society is a harsh environment in which homosexuals cannot live openly, or disclose their sexuality in. It is our experience with our clients that in Iran, men simply do not address their sexuality. The Iranian Regime has also repressed LGBTQ+ activists, as well as those campaigning for greater LGBTQ+ rights.

In February 2022, the UK Parliament Research Briefing on LGBTQ+ rights and the issues in the Middle East remarked that in Iran, those suspected of being gay frequently suffer harassment in detention, house raids and surveillance. It noted that LGBTQ+ people are also often tortured whilst detained by the Iranian authorities. The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Report stated that lesbians, gay or bisexual people who are not transgender may be required to undergo sex re-assignment surgery if their sexuality is discovered. The Iranian Government believes that homosexuality is an illness that can be cured through medical intervention. Even on dating apps, one has to be very careful, because Iran’s cyber forces are known to conduct undercover activity on these platforms to gather incriminating evidence.

Of course, sexual oppression is not just based on the formal laws of Iran. These values also dominate the values shared by society in everyday life.

The reason that we choose to share this information about Iran is because there are currently 66 countries in which same-sex activity is illegal.

The schemes that exist for countries like Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan in the UK do not exist for people facing persecution because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and concerns should be raised as to the Home Office’s intentions to send gay refugees to Rwanda.

The Home Office previously admitted that lesbian, gay and bisexual refugees could be persecuted if sent to Rwanda, but still plans to fly them there. The Department of Equality Impact Assessment for the policy stated that there were concerns over the treatment of some LGBTQ+ people in the East African country, and their investigations pointed to ill-treatment of this group being more than just one-off instances.

The government assessment of Rwanda’s Human Rights record stated that there were no substantial grounds for believing LGBTQ+ groups would be at risk of treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights in Rwanda. Article 3 is freedom from torture or inhumane or degrading treatment. Is the Home Office report wishful thinking? The report should be read against the background of the statement by then Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who claimed that being gay is not reason enough to claim asylum. She questioned the United Nations Refugee Convention in a speech in Washington in September 2023, arguing that simply being gay or a woman should not be by itself grounds for international protection.

We end with a quote by Ashram Parsi, an Iranian refugee living in Canada in exile, who made it his mission to help LGBTQ+ people living in Iran: “Every LGBTQ+ refugee has a unique situation — but the fear and pain they endured before coming to Canada is universal”.