LGBT rights in Afghanistan

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LGBT rights in Afghanistan
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Male illegal (see below)
Death penalty
Maximum penalty of death (see below)

Homosexuality and cross-dressing are serious crimes in Afghanistan, possible punishment may include the death penalty[1]. This is usually the case in rural parts of the country where local villagers take the law into their own hands. As of 2008, it appears that the regime change has not had much impact on the legal status of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in Afghanistan.

Taliban punishment

When the Taliban gained control of the country in the 1990s they criminalized all sexual relationships outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage, and would often publicly execute men and women for committing fornication and adultery and for engaging in sodomy.

In 1994, the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, saved a boy from being sodomized by two feuding generals in Kandahar and when he was subsequently given control of the city he decreed that violent and consensual sodomy would be capital crimes.[2]

Sexual abuse

The most visible form of bisexuality in Afghanistan is within the contexts of sexual abuse of minors, where an adult man preys on a young pretty boy by giving him money or gifts in exchange for sexual or other favors. A man who preys on boys is called "bacha baz", which is Persian. This form of prostitution seems to flourish in the big cities of Afghanistan probably because of poverty and the strict social taboos about single men dating women. The government had to enact a law that banned Afghan soldiers from having their "ashna" live with them.[3]

In 2007, reports stated that the practice of "bacha bereesh" (boys without beards) is still going on in parts of northern Afghanistan. Teenage boys are dressed up as women, forced to compete in dance competitions and engage in sexual acts.[4] Despite these cultural traditions, most LGBT remain in the closet. Beyond the widespread Islamic religious mores, the criminal code provides harsh sanctions for anyone convicted of sexual conduct outside of a legal marriage.

Penal Code

The Penal Code of 1976 was reinstated after the American invasion, and it has several provisions that could apply LGBT people.

  • Article 398 - Offers lesser punishment for honor killings.
  • Article 427 - Prescribes long prison terms for adultery and pederasty, the latter may be interpreted as including sodomy.

The maximum punishment increases if victim is under eighteen years of age, if the defendant is in a position of authority over the victim, if the defendant has repeatedly committed the crime or if the crime results in the spread of a disease. The law also increases the available punishment if a "violation of honor" takes place.

  • Article 512 states that a person who is engaging in public "watching" in a repugnant manner shall be imprisoned or fined.

Shariah law

Islamic Shariah Laws are still used along with the civil Penal Code, so in theory, homosexual relations could still be subject to death penalty. The courts have, however, interpreted the laws in a more moderate way since the fall of the Taliban government.

The fact that homosexual relations are still illegal was confirmed by the head of the Afghanistan Supreme Court, who said that sodomy is still a capital crime. Yet, more moderate judges have since punished homosexuality with long prison sentences.

In 2004, an American advisor to the Afghanistan government was arrested and sentenced to a prison sentence for homosexual activities with an Afghan man. Other news reports have noted that men are being imprisoned for such behavior. These news reports suggestion that homosexuality is still illegal and being punished with prison.[5]

The Constitution of Afghanistan does stipulate that Islam will be the basis of all government rules and regulations.

Family law

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. Likewise The Afghanistan Law on Marriages Weddings and Circumcision (1949) speaks of marriage as something between a Muslim man and woman and states that marriages must follow Islamic law.

Article 430 states that it shall be treated as "Instigation of Delinquency" if an adult promotes or assists in the act of minors (under 18) being involved in the act of adultery, homosexuality or prostitution.

In 2007, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Pashtun tribesman fell in love with and 'married' a 16 year old boy - both of whom subsequently faced summary execution in Pakistan after his "unholy union" provoked outrage among Islamic leaders. Local reports said the boy's family, who are extremely poor, agreed to the union after Liaquat, an Afghan refugee, paid a dowry of 40,000 Pakistani rupees ($885) - a huge sum. However, as news of the scandal leaked out, Afridi tribal elders convened an emergency jirga (tribal council) on Wednesday to decide how to respond to the "immoral and shameful act" [6].


Prior to 2003, little or no HIV-AIDS education or treatment existed. As of 2008, the official number of people living with HIV-AIDS is 504, although the actual number is suspected of being higher, possible in the thousands.[7] The deeply traditional social mores make it difficult to introduce comprehensive public health education initiatives.

Thus far, the bulk of the available resources have focused on fighting drug addiction and, to a lessor extent, the commercial sex industry [2]. Yet, what little is reportedly being said about sexuality is in the promotion of abstinence-only programs.[8]

In 2009, the first HIV-AIDS treatment center opened up in Kabul, with more clinics promised to open soon.[9] Access to anti-retroviral drugs is, at best, limited and preventive initiatives often conflict with deep-rooted taboos.[10] Efforts are being made to educate local and religious leaders in the hopes that they can legitimize greater public education.[11]

Legally, Article 373 of the Afghanistan criminal code stipulates that a person that spreads a "dangerous disease" by accident shall be fined, but if the disease results in death or permanent disability the punishment shall be the same as if it were an accidental murder.

Discrimination and politics

As of 2009, no law exists in Afghanistan to address discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In response to foreign inquiries, the Afghan Social Democratic Party stated that it "favored an international effort to fight the AIDS-HIV pandemic, but that homosexuality and same-sex marriages are opposed by all great religions." No political party or interest group has supported LGBT rights.

Afghanistan law currently prohibit a political party, interest group or social club from advocating anything that is in opposition to Islamic morality. Absent a change in the law, it is unlikely that a political or social organization advocating LGBT rights will permitted to exist and promote its viewpoints.


Article 32 of the Afghanistan Press Law Edict (2002) prohibits publications from promoting "incitement to depravity." Likewise Article 27(D) of the Afghanistan Postal Law (1973) prohibits the usage of the postal service to exchange material that is "repugnant to public decency and morals." These two provisions could be used to censor the distribution of materials advocating gay rights or talking about homosexuality in general.

See also


See Also

External links


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