New Country Information and Guidance (CIG) published by the Home Office states that under the new Islamic Penal Code of Iran (IPC), women convicted of lesbian acts (mosaheqeh) are to be punished with 100 lashes. If a woman is convicted and the punishment carried out three times, on the fourth occasion, the punishment will be a death sentence. Other homosexual acts between women, such as kissing, are also punishable by flogging under the IPC.
Being transgender is defined under the IPC as a mental illness, but the Iranian state does provide funding for trans people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Cross-dressing is, nevertheless, criminalised. The CIG notes that there are reports of gay people or non-binary conforming people being coerced into undergoing surgery against their will as a method of reconciling their sexual or gender orientation with accepted gender norms.
All gay people and people who do not conform to culturally approved models of masculinity or femininity face the risk of arbitrary detention, torture and rape at the hands of the police. There is also no recourse to protection from the state to LGBT victims of “honour” violence on the part of their families. If a woman is discovered to be lesbian by her family she is likely to experience abuse, beating and even murder. Lesbian women who escape this will often be abandoned by their families and may be forced into prostitution in order to survive.
There is no law to prevent discrimination against women, trans people or gay, bisexual and lesbian people, and no state protection available to those who are victimised in this way. Although being trans is legal and the state offers new identity documents to people who have had gender reassignment surgery, they are obliged to maintain discretion, as living as an openly trans person is not socially acceptable.
Crucially, the report notes that while the formal legal situation in Iran is less harsh for lesbians than it is for gay men, who may face a death sentence for just one offence, lesbians face greater risks in some respects because their social and economic situation is significantly more restrictive when compared to men, even gay men. As women, lesbians already face extreme discrimination and widespread abuse within Iranian culture, these disadvantages are compounded by the additional discrimination they face due to their sexual orientation.