Marriage Equality in the Middle East
Updated 25 August 2013
(NOTE: Due to the current political situation we have taken the following license. We've listed Afghanistan and Pakistan here with the Middle East, and Israel with Europe. Geographically Afghanistan and Pakistan are Asian countries. Politically Israel is officially listed as a European Country.)
The Afghanistan Law of Marriages (1971) stipulates that a legal marriage must be two Muslim adults of the opposite sex, and that it must meet the rules of Islamic law. While the law does not explicitly address the issue of same-sex couples, Article 41 of the Marriage Law stipulates that where the law is silent on a particular issue, it shall be decided based on the principles of Islamic law. Hence, Afghanistan family law does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.
Bahrain legalized same-sex sexual acts in 1976.Law enforcement agents and the courts have the authority to issue fines and or jail time for any activities in violation of law such as under-age same-sex acts, only adults aged twenty-one and above are legally allowed to engage in those acts. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Old "buggery" laws and other anti-LGBT legislation was only liberalized in Cyprus in 2000 when the country faced being barred from joining the European Union if they did not change these provisions. It is still illegal for gay people to serve in the military and the law does not provide for any form of same-sex relationship recognition.
Same-sex sexual activity is not specifically illegal, however other laws may apply. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the legal code has been based on Shari'a* law. No legislation exists to address discrimination or bias motivated violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Officially, the Iranian government believes that everyone is heterosexual and that homosexuality is a violation of the supreme will of God. Same-sex marriages and or civil unions are not legally recognized.
* Shari'a is an Arabic word meaning “path” or “way.” Today the term is used most commonly to mean “Islamic law.”
In Iraq's Personal Status Law marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman to create children. Same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized but are still considered taboo by the majority of the population in Iraq. Many LGBT people in the country suffer from discrimination, abuse, honor killings, and murder. There is no legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships.
As of 2013, no law exists or has been proposed in the Jordanian parliament to address sexual identity-based discrimination or bias motivated crimes. Same-sex marriages, or more limited civil unions, are not legally recognized in Jordan.
Adult and consensual sexual acts between women are legal in Kuwait; however, male homosexual conduct is illegal. Kuwaiti law does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.
Male and female same sex sexual acts are illegal in Lebanon punishable by fines or up to a year imprisonment. There is no legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships.
Homosexuality in the Sultanate of Oman is illegal and can be punished with a jail sentence of up to 3 years. In Oman it is said that cases only get to court if "public scandal" is involved. There is no legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships.
According to Pakistani law, same-sex sexual acts are illegal. Although Pakistan is officially an Islamic Republic, in practice Pakistan has mixed laws with mainly Anglo-Saxon laws inherited from the British. As a result of increasing liberalization trends and increasing globalization and social tolerance, public gay parties in Pakistan have been thriving for a number of years. Pakistan does not have civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation. Same-sex marriages and civil unions in Pakistan have no legal recognition.
LGBT rights in the Palestinian territories are often spoken of in the geopolitical and cultural context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It remains one of the most taboo human rights issues in the region. The Palestinian territories have no specific, stand-alone civil rights legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination or harassment. Same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships are not given legal recognition in the Palestinian territories. alQaws is a Jerusalem-based organization promoting sexual and gender diversity in Palestinian society. alQaws aims to fill the gap between what Palestinian society doesn't know about homosexuality and what it needs to.
Homosexual acts between adult females are legal whereas homosexual acts between adult males are illegal. There is no legal recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.
LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia are unrecognized. Advocacy for LGBT rights is illegal within the kingdom and only the underground Green Party of Saudi Arabia has publicly supported LGBT-rights as part of its human rights platform. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Syria and the government does not allow for a LGBT rights movement to exist. Culturally, traditional religious mores assert that homosexuality and cross-dressing are also seen as signs of decadence and immorality. There is no legal recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits.
Although same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Turkey since 1858, there is no recognition of same-sex relationships in Turkey.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates includes the Emirates of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras al-Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Fujairah, and Sharjah. Sexual relations outside of a traditional, heterosexual marriage are a crime. Punishments range from jail time, fines, deportation, and the death penalty. A person may also face forced hormone treatments which may include chemical castration. There is no legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships.
Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen in accordance with the country's Shari'a legal system. Punishments for homosexuality range from flogging to death. Yemen is one of only seven countries to apply a death penalty for consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex. Gay and lesbian websites are blocked by the government. As of 2007, there was no public or semi-public space for gays as in western countries. The official position is that there are no gays in Yemen. There is no legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships.