Middle East / North Africa

Iran data show growing coercion of LGBT sex changes

Logo of 6Rang

Logo of 6Rang

Iran’s coercive advocacy of sex-change surgery for LGBT people has become a growing problem in recent years, says the Iranian lesbian and transgender network 6Rang, which has launched a campaign against the practice

These timelines demonstrate the magnitude of the problem:

1973: Iranian press reports on the first case of sex reassignment surgery.

1976: Iran Medical Association declares sex-reassignment operations ethically unacceptable, except in intersex cases.

Ayatollah Khomeini (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Ayatollah Khomeini (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

1985: Ayatollah Khomeini issues fatwa sanctioning sex-reassignment surgeries.

2005: Dr. Mir-Jalali, a Tehran-based general surgeon, states in an interview with the Guardian that he has performed 320 sex-reassignment operations between 1993 and 2005, around 250 of which involved male-to-female transitions. He said that, in a European country, he would have carried out fewer than 40 such procedures over the same period. “The reason for the discrepancy … is Iran’s strict ban on homosexuality,” he says.

2008: Iran reportedly performs more sex-reassignment surgeries than any other country except Thailand, leading some Western journalists to describe Iran as “a paradise for transsexuals.”

2014: In an interview with the Ghanoon Daily, Dr. Mehrad Baghaie, general surgeon specialized in plastic and reconstructive microsurgery, states that he has performed “over one hundred” male-to-female
surgeries.

2014: Dr. Soudabeh Oskouyee, a general surgeon in the field of sex reassignment surgeries, states that since 2001, she has performed between 30 and 40 surgeries every month.

Growing numbers of applications for sex-change permits
(Latest available figures)

  • 2006 — 170 applications.
  • 2007 — 297 applications.
  • 2008 — 294 applications.
  • 2009 — 286 applications.
  • 2010 — 319 applications

Source: Legal Medicine Organization of Iran

Scene from "Be Like Others," a 2008 documentary about sex-change operations in Iran. (Photo courtesy of nteractive.wxxi.org and www.al-monitor.com)

Scene from “Be Like Others,” a 2008 documentary about sex-change operations in Iran. (Photo courtesy of nteractive.wxxi.org and http://www.al-monitor.com)

Increasing proportion of requests for female-to-male sex-change permits

2006
59.4% male-to-female applicants
40.6% female-to-male applicants

2007
67.7 % male-to-female applicants
32.3% female-to-male applicants

2008
59.5% male-to-female applicants
40.5% female-to-male applicants

2009
46.5% male-to-female applicants
53.5% female-to-male applicants

2010
49.5% male-to-female applicants
50.5% female-to-male applicants

6Rang states that the frequency of female-to-male operations is much higher in Iran than in Western European and North American countries, where the number of male-to-female transsexuals is 5 to 8 times higher than that of female-to-male candidates. Legal, social and cultural constraints experienced by women such as compulsory wearing of the hijab create a strong incentive for lesbians and female-to-male transgenders to opt for a sex change.

Official process for changing gender in Iran

In order to change their legal gender, transgender people in Iran are required to:

  • Obtain a psychiatric diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder.”
  • Receive an official sex reassignment permit, provided by the Prosecutor on the recommendation of the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran (LMOI).
  • Undergo Hormone therapy, sterilization and genital reassignment surgeries
  • Apply to Court and the National Organization for Civil Registration for name change and identification.

These data come from the report “Stop Reparative Therapies & Mandatory Sex Reassignment Surgeries: Homophobia, Transphobia and Health Care Abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran,”  prepared by 6Rang and JFI with support from Hivos.

4 thoughts on “Iran data show growing coercion of LGBT sex changes

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