Report: Gay Iranians Coerced Into Gender Reassignment Surgery

Homosexuals in the Islamic Republic are being pressured into changing their gender in order to 'fix' them, the BBC reports.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A poster of Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued a fatwah allowing sexual reassignment surgery.Credit: Reuters

Aside from imprisonment and execution, homosexual Iranians face another threat - being pressured into having gender reassignment surgery. According to a BBC Persian report, both lesbians and gay men are often coerced into undergoing the radical procedure as to "cure" them of their homosexuality, which is outlawed in the Islamic Republic.

BBC reports that the phenomenon is common in Iran, which has some of the world's harshest anti-gay laws, and stems from the belief that gay people are "trapped" in the wrong body. While Iran has no official government policy to force gay people to have gender reassignment operations, state-run clinics, clerics and parents often exert considerable pressure for them to do so. 

Homosexuals are even offered special loans to pay for the surgery, and some family members threaten to murder their gay relatives if they don’t agree to the having the operation. 

The report, by Ali Hamedani, extracts of which were published online, with the full report airing Thursday, includes the stories of a number of Iranians – both men and women – who have either undergone gender reassignment surgery, or who have fled the country to avoid it. A doctor working in an Iranian hospital told the BBC that he performs over 200 such gender realignment surgeries a year.

According to the report, one Iranian psychologist suggested gender reassignment surgery to a gay 21-year-old Iranian named Soheil. "My father came to visit me in Tehran with two relatives," Soheil is quoted as saying. "They'd had a meeting to decide what to do about me... They told me: 'You need to either have your gender changed or we will kill you and will not let you live in this family.'"

Transgender people have more rights than homosexuals in Iran, with the late Ayatollah Khomeini even issuing a fatwa permitting gender reassignment surgery. Gay people, however, face imprisonment and the death sentence if convicted of engaging in homosexual activity.