On Tuesday, Iraq’s official media regulator issued a directive to all media and social media entities operating within the country, instructing them to refrain from using the term “homosexuality.” Instead, they are advised to use the phrase “sexual deviance.” This information was confirmed by a government spokesperson and is documented in an official communication from the regulator.
The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission document said that 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 organizations … 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.
Iraq does not explicitly criminalize 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 Shiite Muslim factions opposed to recent Qur’an burnings in Sweden and Denmark.
More than 60 countries criminalize gay sex, while same-sex sexual acts are legal in more than 130 countries, according to Our World in Data.