Iraq Forces Media to Use 'Sexual Deviance' Instead of 'Homosexuality'

Media outlets and social media platforms operating in Iraq may no longer be able to use the word “homosexuality” in the future, as the Arab country plans to penalize the use of this term and instead recommends using the phrase “sexual deviance.”

A spokesperson for the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission (CMC) and a document released by the agency confirmed this planned change. The document also said using the word “gender” is also banned. Phone and Internet companies are prohibited from using the terms in any of their mobile applications.

An Iraqi government official later said the ban still requires final approval. The country’s media regulator "directs media organizations... not to use the term 'homosexuality' and to use the correct term 'sexual deviance'" instead.

A government spokesperson said penalties for violating this rule had not been set yet but may include a fine.

Although Iraq does not criminalize gay sex, loosely defined morality clauses in its penal code have been used to target members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Political parties in Iraq have also been increasingly critical of LGBTQIA+ rights, with Shia Muslim groups burning rainbow Pride flags during protests opposed to the recent incidents of Quran burnings in Sweden and Denmark. They have also spread outlandish claims and blame homosexuals for spreading diseases.

Human rights group Amnesty International released a statement on August 9th, condemning the decision by the Iraqi government to ban the terms “homosexuality” and “gender.”

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,” Aya Majzoub, the organization’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, said. “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 demonization 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,” Majzoub added.

The Iraqi authorities must immediately overturn this decision and ensure that they respect the right to freedom of expression and non-discrimination for all individuals in the country, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

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