Jordan Cybercrime law 'disaster' for LGBT community: HRW

Jordan Cybercrime law 'disaster' for LGBT community: HRW
2 min read
15 August, 2023
HRW warned that the new cybercrime law could be used to target LGBT individuals and their right to free expression.
The new cybercrime bill was signed into law by the king on Saturday, despite protests by local civil society and international human rights bodies. [Getty]

Jordan's new cybercrime law, signed by King Abdullah II on Saturday, will be a "disaster" for LGBT people, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned on Monday.

"The law jeopardises rights online and offline, including free expression and the right to privacy, and contains vague provisions that could target marginalised groups, including LGBT people," said Rasha Younes, the senior researcher for HRW's LGBT rights program.

The new cybercrime law is a blow to free speech in Jordan and will further erode space for civil activism and expression, critics warned ahead of its passage.

Jordanian MPs have claimed that the new law could be used to criminalise homosexuality online.

Speaker of the House Ahmed Safadi said during a parliamentary session on 27 July that "what was reported that the House of Representatives does not criminalise homosexuality through cyberspace is incorrect."

The new law punishes the distribution of "pornographic content" and promotes "immorality online" with at least six months of jail time and a fine.

HRW warned that these provisions could target "digital content around gender and sexuality," as well as those that advocate for LGBT rights online.

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The new law also potentially bans using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which many LGBT individuals use to protect themselves online by anonymising their identities.

In the past, HRW has reported Jordanian authorities targeting and entrapping LGBT people online, negatively affecting their ability to advocate for their rights and express their gender identities.

The passage of the new cybercrime bill amid a wave of hate speech against LGBT individuals in Jordan and the broader Middle East.

MyKali, an online pan-Arab LGBT magazine, warned on 29 July that there was a pattern of "escalating attacks on queer initiatives and individuals" in Jordan since the beginning of 2023.

In Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of pro-Iran group Hezbollah, warned in late July that gay people's existence was a "threat to society" and called for LGBT people to be killed.

In Iraq, authorities on 9 August banned the use of the word "homosexuality" in media and instead mandated the use of the phrase "sexual deviance."