Those suspected of or found guilty of homosexuality in Iran, a crime in the Islamist country, are being offered a choice between execution or undergoing sexual reassignment surgery, according to reports and testimony revealed this week from LGBT campaigners.
Officially named the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country’s theocratic regime boasts some of the most brutal sodomy laws anywhere in the world, with punishments ranging from torture to public flogging and executions. However, new reports and testimony suggest that authorities have come up with a new way of “treating” homosexuals for their supposed sins by giving them a choice between execution or being forced into a surgical sex change.
Ample evidence suggests those opting for the surgery do not in any way identify as transgender but feel compelled to agree to it to avoid being killed.
In an interview with the Sun, Iranian-born LGBT activist Shadi Amin explained that the regime views homosexuality as an “illness” that can only be cured by changing the person’s gender.
“The government believes that if you are a gay man your soul is that of a woman and you should change your body,” she said. “We think this is a way to fight the existence of homosexual people because you change their body and you solve the problem.”
Sexual reassignment surgery has been legal in Iran since 1987 and has the largest number of operations after Thailand. Reports indicate that around 4,000 surgeries are carried out in Iran every year, the majority of which are subsidized by the government, while one doctor reportedly told Amin that he carries out between 30 to 40 surgeries per month.
“The regime gives gay people two choices — to be arrested as a homosexual and being punished, even executed, or change your body,” Amin continued. “They are trying to cleanse the country of homosexuals. They would rather carry out mass surgeries than executions because they know the world is watching them.”
Amin, who leads the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network (6Rang) from her home in Germany, explained that victims of this abuse are not given any support following their transition and continued to be shunned by their families and wider society, forcing them into prostitution to make a living.
“There is nothing which criminalizes attacks against trans people,” she said. “After the surgery, they have no rights anymore. There is no physiological support after the surgery.”
British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who despite being an ardent left-wing activist has a record of standing up to repressive regimes of all political persuasions, told the British tabloid that the number of surgeries is only high because homosexuals want to carry on living.
“The Ayatollah’s are seeking to eliminate homosexuality by pressuring or forcing gay men to undergo gender reassignment surgery to make them ‘women,’” he said. “Some gay men agree to become trans women to protect themselves from prosecution and execution when they have sex with men.”
“They don’t want to be trans but fear being hanged if they don’t transition,” he added. “Iran’s policy of encouraging gender reassignment has nothing to do with supporting trans people. It is motivated by a desire to eradicate homosexuality and enforce traditional male and female gender norms.”