Human rights activists from various international organizations in late December called on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani [BBC profile] to end the country's persecution of LGBT Iranians in a letter citing various attacks and rights violations. The signatories of the letter, from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Iranian Queer Organization [advocacy websites], criticized Iran for its Islamic Penal Code [text] which includes penalties ranging from 100 lashes for consensual sex between women (Article 239) to the death penalty for consensual sex between men (Article 234). Article 237 criminalizes other acts between members of the same sex, including intimate kissing, as well. The letter states that prior to his election, Rouhani made promises [Jerusalem Post report] to allow greater individual freedoms to Iranians, and calls on the president to repeal its anti-LGBT laws.
LGBT individuals have gained increased rights globally in the last decade, but many still face discrimination and criminal punishment throughout the world. In September the first UN ministerial meeting [JURIST report] on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals was held during the General Assembly's annual high-level debate. Also in September, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced [JURIST report] that the US will begin processing same-sex visa applications the same way opposite-sex visa applications are processed. Speaking at the US embassy in London, Kerry stated, "As long as a marriage has been performed in the jurisdiction that recognizes it, then that marriage is valid under US immigration laws." In June Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] signed into law [JURIST report] a bill banning the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" among minors. The law also imposes fines [AFP report] of up to 5,000 rubles (USD $166) and creates the power to suspend legal entities for 90 days for citizens who disseminate information suggesting that homosexuality is "socially equivalent" to heterosexuality.