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Iraq postpones vote on bill punishing gay sex with death

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani meets President Joe Biden White House Oval Office Washington DC United States America
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The vote was postponed ahead of a same-day visit by the country’s Prime Minister with Pres. Joe Biden in the Oval Office earlier this week.

Iraq’s Parliament on Monday postponed voting on an anti-prostitution bill that contains an amendment penalizing same-sex sexual relations and wife-swapping with life imprisonment or death, Reuters reported. The proposed legislation encountered widespread international condemnation along with warnings of “catastrophic consequences” for diplomatic and trade relations if signed into law from unnamed sources.

A vote on the bill was listed as the second item on the legislature’s agenda before it was postponed. Two unidentified lawmakers told Reuters the delay was due to time constraints and disagreement on amendments, although some speculated the vote was postponed to avoid controversy ahead of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s visit with President Joe Biden’s visit in the Oval Office today.

Unnamed diplomats said Iraq was warned that passage of the bill would have dire consequences for their country.

“It would be very difficult to justify working closely with such a state at home,” an anonymous source identified as a senior diplomat told Reuters. “We were very, very direct: if this law is passed in its current form, it would have catastrophic consequences for our bilateral and business and trade relations.”

“Iraq’s proposed anti-LGBT law would threaten the lives of Iraqis already facing a hostile environment for LGBT people,” Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement last year criticizing the legislation. “Iraqi lawmakers are sending an appalling message to LGBT people that their speech is criminal and their lives are expendable.”

Iraq does not presently have specific laws banning same-sex sexual relations, but such issues are often governed by a haphazard network of local religious and cultural laws that deal harshly with members of the LGBTQ+ basis.

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