16 Jul 2013

Lesbians in Iran: Stories of Persecution and Torture

Iranian lesbians, like their gay brothers, are not allowed to have an existence in Iran. Many are forced by society and by their family to live a lie and marry a man. Women convicted of lesbian sex face flogging or, after conviction for a fourth time, the death penalty. Lesbians have no security of person vis-à-vis the government. Each time they are arrested, they risk being raped, whipped, persecuted or even tortured to death. If they are raped by strangers or acquaintances, they and their family members are often reluctant to file a formal complaint because being raped is itself a matter of shame and disgrace. Even when complaints are filed, they do not prosper as the law pertaining to the crime of rape requires four male witnesses to prove the legitimacy of the accusation.

Those forced into marriage by their families experience the trauma of rape every night as a wife’s first duty is to serve her husband’s sexual needs. Under Iranian law, it is lawful for a man to rape his wife. The only unlawful rape of a woman is zena or adulterous rape. Many of these women suffer from depression and other mental and spiritual problems. If their sexuality is discovered by their family members, they are likely to be beaten and abused if not abandoned. Abandonment often means drug abuse and prostitution. Sometimes, lesbian women are forced by their families to consult a doctor, a process which can involve agitation and trauma. There have been cases where a lesbian required hospitalization after being prescribed a dangerous pill used typically for serious mental illnesses. They may even be persuaded to undergo sex-change operation, which can lead to depression, various mental and physical conditions and even suicide.
For lesbians and bisexual women, family and institutional social control may be the greatest threat to their safety and well-being. Research conducted by IRQR in last few years with Iranian lesbians indicates that their families and communities pressure them to repress their sexuality in myriad ways. Their fear of discovery is well-founded. Lesbians whose families suspect them of homosexuality may be punished. A university student in her mid-twenties in Tehran told us that she was barred from leaving their home for there months when her mother discovered she was a lesbian. After which she was under constant supervision and was prevented from communicating outside the family.
Full story on ILGA