LGBT rights in Bahrain

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LGBT rights in Bahrain Bahrain
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1976
Gender identity/expression No
Military service No
Discrimination protections
Family rights
Recognition of

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in Bahrain may face discrimination not faced by non-LGBT persons. The country has legalized homosexuality since 1976.[1] Law enforcement agents and the courts have the authority to issue fines and or jail time for any activities in violation of laws such as under-age same-sex acts, as only adults aged twenty-one and above are legally allowed to engage in homosexuality.[2][3]

Penal Code[edit]

A new Penal Code was enacted in March 1976, repealing the Penal Code of the Persian Gulf that was imposed by the United Kingdom.[1] The new code legalized same-sex sodomy, with the minimum age of consent at 21 years.[1]

Private, non-commercial and consensual homosexual and heterosexual sexual intercourse with anyone under the age of twenty-one years is essentially deemed to be similar to statutory rape, although the non-consent of the victim is legally presumed if he or she is less than fourteen years. If the victim is at least sixteen years old, then the offender can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. However, the death penalty is the punishment where the victim is under sixteen years of age [Bahrain Penal Code. Article 345]. Likewise, the penal code has stiff penalties for prostitution or using deception or force in a sexual relationship.

Related issues[edit]

Cross-dressing can be grounds for fines or imprisonment under broad laws designed to protect public morality and public order. Any private establishment with LGBT customers or entertainers can be shut down by the courts for being an immoral establishment and its owner and employees are potentially liable for fines and prison sentences for assisting in this ill-defined immorality [Bahrain Penal Code. Article 328]. Asking or enticing someone to engage in any immoral act is also illegal, which potentially prohibits LGBT people soliciting sex or even asking someone out on a date. If the victim of this immoral enticement is under the age of eighteen, the maximum prison sentence increases to five years [Bahrain Penal Code. Article 324]. A related clause in the penal code deals with maintaining public order.

Public cross-dressing is criminalized in Bahrain. At least 11 people have been arrested for cross-dressing in public since late 2007 under this broad crime of "immorality".[4] There have been recent reports of a possible comprehensive crackdown against same-sex sexual acts and cross-dressing in Bahrain.

In response to questions from parliament about lesbianism in schools, the Assistant Under-Secretary for Educational Services Khalid Al Alawi has said that the Education Ministry is not responsible for addressing issues of sexuality, and instead it is the responsibility of parents to take care of their children's emotional development: "Any emotional problems should be dealt with by their parents – it is not up to the school to take actions on this problem. The public shouldn't make a big deal out of this problem because it does not exist." Speaking about the government's attitude, Mr Al Alawi said that "As for the question that has been raised in the Press about the so-called problem of lesbianism, as a ministry we cannot talk about a widespread phenomenon and we can't call them lesbians. The problems that the students are facing are put into the category of educational problems, not immoral acts. If a student's appearance is contrary to custom and the schools values, then the only thing we can say is that those violating the school's rules should be disciplined."[5]

In 2008, a harsher crackdown on same-sex sexual acts was called for by members of the Al Menbar parliamentary bloc. The government is being asked to conduct an official study into the problem of same-sex sexual acts and how to best combat them. The initial response from the government was as follows;

  • The Interior Minster says that "suspected" (effeminate) homosexuals are banned from entering Bahrain by checks at the airport.[6]
  • The Interior Minister says that many homosexuals choose a profession in hairdressing salons and beauty and massage spas, which the Minster says are often inspected.[6]

The government crackdown against cross-dressing appears to have begun a year later. In 2009, two Asian foreigners were sentenced to six months in jail, with hard labor, and later deportation for offering to have sex with undercover police offices in exchange for money at a Male Barbershop [14 January 2009 – Bahraini Newspaper, *Alwaqht,*]

In February 2009, a thirty-nine-year-old man was sentenced to a month in jail for wearing women's clothing in public, namely an abaya and purse. [13 February 2009 – PinkNews]

Other pending bills would expressly ban LGBT foreigners from entering the kingdom or receiving residency permits as well as plans to instruct children's teachers in apparent warning signs of homosexuality or cross-dressing, so that the children can be punished.[7]

Freedom of speech[edit]

The subject of homosexuality in Bahrain is discussed in the newspapers. Since the 1990s, newspapers have mentioned the issue particularly when talking about events happening outside of Bahrain in the field of entertainment or criminal arrests or the AIDS-HIV pandemic. It has only been within the last few years that the Bahraini press has begun to address sexual orientation, gender identity, and AIDS as they apply to the island.

In 2001 the Arabic language newspaper, Al-Meethaq, created a national controversy when it became the first newspaper to discuss homosexuality in Bahrain.[8]

On 21 December 2005, the Bahrain-based newspaper, Gulf Daily News' British columnist Les Horton wrote a commentary, 'Gay weddings are no threat to family values'. While it is an English language newspaper, its readership mainly consists of Bahrainis.

The Gulf Daily News has continued to write articles that touch upon homosexuality and gender identity. For example, it has published several articles on Bahraini female homosexuality in girls' high schools and Bahraini women who claim to have become lesbians based on abusive relationships with men.

LGBT community[edit]

The 2002 Constitution and other reforms legalized "political societies", which can participate in the parliamentary elections.

A Bahraini lawyer named Fowzia Mohammed Janahi has been giving legal assistance to transsexuals seeking to have their legal documents changed and be officially recognized in their new gender. In 2006 the Gulf Daily News published a story about a Bahraini person assigned female at birth who, having undergone a sex change operation, is going to court in a bid to have his new status as a man recognised in law. The lawyer had won a landmark case in 2005 where a Bahraini person assigned female at birth, aged 30, had the operation and was legally recognized as a man. The legal case was still going through the Bahraini legal system for years, until 2008 when the court granted the motion to allow the transsexual to change his legal documents and be recognized in his new gender.[9]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1976)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSM allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "2013 State Sponsored Homophobia Report" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. p. 20. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Age of consent". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Lake, Adam (23 April 2008). "Government of Bahrain seeks to punish ‘homosexual children’". Pink News. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bahrain jails young man for crossdressing in public". BNO News. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Gulf Daily News". Gulf Daily News. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "Local News » Gays to face new clamp". Gulf Daily News. 14 February 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Bahrain". 28 February 2005. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  9. ^ "Gulf Daily News". Gulf Daily News. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 

External links[edit]