Amnesty urges Iraq to reverse media ban on terms 'homosexuality', 'gender'

Amnesty urges Iraq to reverse media ban on terms 'homosexuality', 'gender'
Amnesty International said the ban issued this week by Iraq's official media regulator was 'the latest in a series of attacks on freedom of expression under the guise of respect for "public morals"'.
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Amnesty International's Middle East deputy director Aya Majzoub said the ban of the word 'homosexuality' was a 'dangerous move' [ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty-file photo]

Amnesty International has called on Iraq to reverse a decision to ban media from using the term "homosexuality" and instruct them to instead say "sexual deviance".

The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) on Tuesday ordered all media and social media companies operating in the Arab state not to use the term, a government spokesperson said and a document from the regulator shows. The CMC document said the use of the term "gender" was also banned.

It prohibited all phone and internet companies licensed by it from using the terms in any of their mobile applications.

A government official later said that the decision still required final approval.

The regulator "directs media organisations… not to use the term 'homosexuality' and to use the correct term 'sexual deviance'," the Arabic-language statement said.

A government spokesperson said a penalty for violating the rule had not yet been set but could include a fine.

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 that 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 at a time when civil society has been reporting an increase in crimes against women and girls, amid widespread impunity."

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Majzoub called on the Iraqi authorities to immediately overturn the decision, and urged them to respect the right to freedom of expression and non-discrimination for everyone in Iraq, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

Iraq does not explicitly criminalise gay sex but loosely defined morality clauses in its penal code have been used to target members of the LGBT community.

Major Iraqi parties have in the past two months stepped up criticism of LGBT rights, with rainbow flags frequently being burned in protests by Shia Muslim factions opposed to recent Quran burnings in Sweden and Denmark.

More than 60 countries criminalise gay sex, while same-sex sexual acts are legal in more than 130 countries, according to the publication Our World in Data.

(The New Arab, Reuters)