World Report 2018 summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2016 through November 2017.

In his keynote essay, “The Pushback Against the Populist Challenge,” Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the surge of authoritarian populists appears less inevitable than it did a year ago. Then, there seemed no stopping a series of politicians around the globe who claimed to speak for “the people” but built followings by demonizing unpopular minorities, attacking human rights principles, and fueling distrust of democratic institutions. Today, a popular reaction in a broad range of countries, bolstered by some political leaders with the courage to stand up for human rights, has left the fate of many of these populist agendas more uncertain.

We gathered the parts that only reflects on Sexual Orientation, minorities and gender identity in the Middle East and North Africa:



Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Algeria’s penal code criminalizes same sex relations with a prison sentence of two months to two years. In 2015, several people were arrested for same-sex relations but none were prosecuted.

Activists state that during and after the 2014 presidential election, anti-LGBT rhetoric from politicians and media led to increased harassment and violence, leading many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community leaders to flee the country. Activists have documented recent cases of violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity within families, at universities, in the streets, and in prisons.

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation

Law 19/2009 regulates personal status matters only in Sunni religious courts, so that Shia women are not covered by a codified personal status law. Both Sunni and Shia women face discrimination in the right to divorce and other matters.

Adultery and sexual relations outside marriage are criminalized. No law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Full report (here)



Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In September and October, security forces arrested as many as 75 gay and transgender people and activists after a few activists raised a rainbow flag, a sign of LGBT activism, at a concert in Cairo. Supreme State Security Prosecution charged two with “joining an illegal group” aiming at overthrowing the constitution. Courts sentenced over 40 of the arrested to prison terms of up to 6 years under vague “debauchery” laws.

Full report (here)



Treatment of Minorities, Migrants, Rights of Persons with Disability

Under Iranian law, same-sex conduct is punishable by flogging and, in the case of two men, can be punished by the death penalty. Although Iran permits and subsidizes sex reassignment surgery for transgender people, no law prohibits discrimination against them. On September 14, Nasser Atabati, procsecutor of Ardebil province, told media that six people have been arrested in Ardebil for promoting homosexuality on the Telegram messaging platform.

In March 2017, before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Iran denied allegations that coercive treatment and electric shocks were being used against LGBTI people.

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights

Women have few legal protections to shield them from domestic violence. Iraq’s criminal code includes provisions criminalizaing physical assault, but lacks any explicit mention of domestic violence. While sexual assault is criminalized, article 398 provides that such charges be dropped if the assailant marries the victim. A 2012 Ministry of Planning study found that at least 36 percent of married women reported experiencing some form of psychological abuse from their husbands, 23 percent reported verbal abuse, 6 percent reported physical violence, and 9 percent reported sexual violence. While more recent national studies are not available, women’s rights organizations continue to report a high rate of domestic violence.

In 2015, Iraqi officials published a deeply flawed draft domestic violence law, but parliament has yet to pass it or to consider a range of amendments for which women’s rights advocates have been petitioning.

Iraq’s criminal code does not prohibit same-sex intimacy, although article 394 makes it illegal to engage in extra-marital sexual relations.

Full report (here)



Hamas and Palestinian Armed Groups

In Gaza, where laws differ somewhat from those in the West Bank, having “unnatural intercourse” of a sexual nature, understood to include same-sex relationships, is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Full report (here)



Freedom of Expression

In July 2017, high-level Jordanian officials used an inquiry into the legality of a Jordanian online magazine to issue statements against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people. The ministers of justice and interior wrote separate official letters to the minister of political and parliamentary affairs declaring their broad intolerance of LGBT people and making it clear that the government would not defend the rights of LGBT Jordanians.

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Kuwaiti personal status law, which applies to Sunni Muslims who make up most Kuwaitis, discriminates against women. For example, some women require a male guardian to conclude their marriage contracts; women must apply to the courts for a divorce on limited grounds unlike men who can unilaterally divorce their wives; and women can lose custody of their children if they remarry someone outside the family. Men can marry up to four wives, without the permission or knowledge of the other wife or wives. A man can prohibit his wife from working if it is deemed to negatively affect the family interests. The rules that apply to Shia Muslims also discriminate against women.

Kuwait has no laws prohibiting domestic violence or marital rape. A 2015 law establishing family courts set up a center to deal with domestic violence cases, but requires the center to prioritize reconciliation over protection for domestic violence survivors. Article 153 of the Kuwaiti penal code stipulates that a man who finds his mother, wife, sister, or daughter in the act of adultery and kills them is punished by either a small fine or no more than three years in prison.

Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaitis, unlike Kuwaiti men, cannot pass citizenship to their children or spouses.

Adultery and extramarital intercourse are criminalized, and same-sex relations between men are punishable by up to seven years in prison. In 2017, Kuwait reportedly deported 76 men on suspicion of being gay. Transgender people can be arrested under a 2007 penal code provision that prohibits “imitating the opposite sex in any way.”

Full report (here)



Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Adultery is criminalized under Lebanon’s penal code. Furthermore, article 534 of the penal code punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. In recent years, authorities conducted raids to arrest persons allegedly involved in same-sex conduct, some of whom were subjected to torture including forced anal examinations.

In January, a judge challenged the legal basis of the arrest of men for same-sex conduct, declaring in a court ruling that “homosexuals have the right to have human or intimate relationships with any people they chose, without discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Libyan law does not specifically criminalize domestic violence. Personal status laws continue to discriminate against women, particularly with respect to marriage, divorce, and inheritance. The penal code allows for a reduced sentence for a man who kills or injures his wife or another female relative because he suspects her of extramarital sexual relations. It also allows rapists to escape prosecution if they marry their victim under article 424.

On February 16, Abdelrazeq al-Nadhouri, chief of staff of the LNA, issued an order requiring women who wished to travel abroad by land, air, or sea to be accompanied by a male guardian. Al-Nadhouri rescinded the order on February 23 after public pressure, and replaced it with another order requiring all men and women ages 18 to 45 to acquire clearance by relevant security agencies ahead of any international travel from east Libya.

The penal code prohibits all sexual acts outside marriage, including same-sex relations, and punishes them with up to five years in prison.

Full report (here)


Morocco/Western Sahara

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Moroccan courts continued to jail persons for same-sex conduct under article 489 of the penal code, which stipulates prison terms of six months to three years for “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.”

In December 2016, a court in Marrakech acquitted two teenage girls who had been detained for one week and charged with “sexual deviancy” for allegedly hugging and kissing in private. On February 24, two men were sentenced on charges that included violating article 489, to six months in prison and a fine of MAD1,000 (US$107) by a Tangiers court of first instance, after a video showing them engaging in consensual sex was shared on social media.

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Article 17 of the Basic Law states that all citizens are equal and bans gender-based discrimination. In practice, however, women continue to face discrimination. The Personal Status Law discriminates against women on matters such as divorce, inheritance, child custody, and legal guardianship. For instance, women can lose child custody if they re-marry, and men continue to hold guardianship of the child regardless of whether they have custody.

Oman has no laws prohibiting domestic violence and marital rape. Cases can only be brought under general provisions that criminalize assault. Oman’s penal code explicitly excludes marital rape, and does not criminalize sexual harassment.

Oman’s penal code criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage and provides three months to one-year imprisonment when the person is unmarried, and one to three years’ imprisonment when the person is married. Criminalization of such offenses apply disproportionately to women whose pregnancy can serve as evidence of the offense. Oman’s penal code provides for six months to three years in prison for consensual sex between two people of the same sex.

In October, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women concluded its review of Oman, finding that it had made “very little progress in removing discrimination from marriage and family related law and practice.”

Full report (here)



Women’s Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity

Qatar’s Law No. 22 of 2006 on Family and Personal Status continues to discriminate against women. Under article 36, a marriage contract is valid when a woman’s male guardian concludes the contract and two male witnesses are present. Article 58 states that it is a wife’s responsibility to look after the household and to obey her husband.

Other than article 57 of the family law forbidding husbands from hurting their wives physically or morally, and general provisions on assault, the penal code does not criminalize domestic violence or marital rape.

Qatar’s penal code punishes “sodomy” with one to three years in prison. Muslims convicted of zina (sex outside of marriage) can be sentenced to flogging (if unmarried) or the death penalty (if married). Non-Muslims can be sentenced to imprisonment.

Full report (here)


Saudi Arabia

Freedoms of Expression, Association, and Belief

Saudi Arabia has no written laws concerning sexual orientation or gender identity, but judges use principles of uncodified Islamic law to sanction people suspected of committing sexual relations outside marriage, including adultery, extramarital and homosexual sex. If individuals are engaging in such relationships online, judges and prosecutors utilize vague provisions of the country’s anti-cybercrime law that criminalize online activity impinging on “public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy.”

In February 2017, Saudi police arrested 35 Pakistani citizens, some of whom were transgender women. One of them died in detention. Her family said her body bore signs of torture, while the Saudi authorities said she had died of a heart attack.

Full report (here)



Enforced Disappearances, Death in Custody, Arbitrary Arrests, Torture

Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, torture and enforced disappearances continued to run rampant in Syria. In 2017, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documented more than 4,252 individual arbitrary arrests, most of them conducted by government forces. As of August 2017, over 80,000 individuals remain disappeared according to SNHR.

In August, the wife of Bassel Khartabil, a computer engineer and freedom of expression advocate who was arrested in 2012, revealed that she had received confirmation that government forces had executed her husband in detention in 2015 but had kept his fate secret. The Syrian government also conducted arbitrary arrests under a law that criminalizes “unnatural sexual intercourse.”

Full report (here)



Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Article 230 of the penal code punishes consensual same-sex conduct with up to three years in prison. Anal testing is used as the main form of evidence in order to convict men of sodomy. Shams, a Tunisian LGBTI association, said that at least 10 men were prosecuted under article 230 in various parts of Tunisia in 2017, and two were sentenced to two years in prison.

In April, The National Council of the Medical Order urged doctors to cease conducting forced anal and genital examinations, calling it “a practice which is contrary to human dignity and physical and moral integrity of the human being.” On September 21, during the adoption of the report from its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Tunisia accepted a recommendation from Ireland to immediately cease the practice of forced anal examinations, but it did not accept 11 other recommendations to repeal article 230 of the penal code.

Full report (here)


United Arab Emirates

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Article 356 of the penal code criminalizes (but does not define) “indecency” and provides for a minimum sentence of one year in prison. UAE courts use this article to convict and sentence people for zina offenses, which include same-sex relations as well as consensual heterosexual relations outside marriage.

Different emirates within the UAE’s federal system have laws that criminalize same-sex sexual relations, including Abu Dhabi, where “unnatural sex with another person” can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

In August, the UAE sentenced two Singaporean nationals who had been arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall to one year in prison “for attempting to resemble women.” An appeals court converted their sentence to a fine and deportation.

Full report (here)



Women’s and Girls’ Rights

Violence against women has increased 63 percent since the conflict escalated, according to UNFPA. Forced marriage rates, including child marriage, have increased. Yemen has no minimum age of marriage. Women in Yemen face severe discrimination in law and practice. They cannot marry without the permission of their male guardian and do not have equal rights to divorce, inheritance or child custody. Lack of legal protection leaves them exposed to domestic and sexual violence.

Full report (here)