Last modified on 4 February 2015, at 09:08

LGBT rights in the Palestinian territories

LGBT rights in the Palestinian territories
Palestinian territories
Same-sex sexual activity legal?

Legal since 1951, with an equal age of consent

Male illegal (Gaza only)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Map of the Palestinian territories in relation to Israel

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in the Palestinian territories are often spoken of in the geopolitical and cultural context of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It remains one of the most taboo human rights issues in the region. Homosexuality is illegal in the Gaza Strip but not in the West Bank, although LGBT rights are not protected in either.

Criminal law and civil rightsEdit

The Palestinian territories have no specific, stand alone civil rights legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination or harassment. While hundreds of gay Palestinians are reported to have fled to Israel because of the hostility they face in the Palestinian territories, they have also been subject to house arrest or deportation by Israeli authorities, on account of the inapplicability of the law of asylum to areas or nations in which Israel is in conflict.[1] According to a 2010 compendium of laws against homosexuality produced by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex Association (ILGA), the decriminalization of homosexuality in the Palestinian territories is patchwork. On the one hand, same-sex acts were decriminalized in the Jordanian-controlled West Bank in 1951 and remain so to this day. On the other hand, in the Gaza Strip, the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance, No. 74 of 1936 remains in force and continues to outlaw same-sex acts between men, although lesbian women are not subjects of the code and their relations are thus, technically, not unlawful.[2] In both cases, it is important to note that the Palestinian Authority has not legislated either for or against homosexuality – "on the legal level, the President of the Palestinian Authority issued his first decision on 20 May 1994 which provided that legislation and laws that were effective before 5 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would remain effective" – and, in line with almost all other Palestinian laws, the confused legal legacy of foreign occupation – Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Egyptian and Israeli – continues to determine the erratic application or non-application of the criminal law of homosexuality in each of the territories.[3][4]

Marriage and familyEdit

Same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships are not given legal recognition in the Palestinian territories.

LGBT Jews and Arabs are among the least prejudiced people in the region, as seen by the cross-cultural relationships and the fact that Israeli gay bars are often a peaceful mixture of Arabs and Jews. Gay Palestinians frequently seek refuge in Israel fearing for their lives, especially fearing death from members of their own families. [5]

Media and cultural referencesEdit

Several Israeli films and or television programs have dealt with the issue of LGBT Palestinians, often having relationships with LGBT Israelis. However, none of these films have been directed by LGBT Palestinians.

  • Drifting (1983) – First Israeli film to deal with LGBT themes features two Palestinian men, among the many people that the hero meets and interacts with while looking for love.[6]
  • The Bubble (Ha-Buah) (2007) – Two gay men, an Israeli and a Palestinian, face prejudice and other challenges while they date each other in Tel Aviv.
  • Zero Degrees of Separation – Explores the challenges facing same-sex couples in Israel when one of the partners is Palestinian or Arab.[5]
  • Out in The Dark (2012) – A romance between two gay men, an Israeli and a Palestinian. They put as much effort as they can two stay together, regardless of law.


A Palestinian National AIDS/HIV Health program was established in 1998. Dr Ezzat Gouda is the current doctor to focus on sexually transmitted diseases for the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Reports claim that very few people have become infected since 1987, and those people who are infected face prejudice and shortages of medicine.[7]

In 2003 a report from the Palestinian Health Minister[8] made some references to the infections, under "communicable diseases".[9]


In the early 2000s, two established groups formed to provide support to lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning and trans Palestinian peoples living within the borders of Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Al-Qaws ("Rainbow" in Arabic), the first official Palestinian LGBTQ organization, was founded in 2001 as a community project of the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance[10] to specifically address the needs of Palestinian LGBTQs living in Jerusalem. Al-Qaws has expanded since its founding and now hosts social activities in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and the West Bank as an arena for support for members of the LGBTQ Palestinian community. Al-Qaws also hosts a telephone support line.[11] In 2002, a second group formed to specifically address the needs of Palestinian lesbian women; Aswat ("Voices" in Arabic) was founded as a project of the Palestinian Feminist NGO Kayan, at the Haifa Feminist Center . Aswat started as an anonymous email-list serve to provide support to Palestinian gay women, and has developed into an established working group that hosts monthly meetings for its approximately 60 members, and organizes lectures, events, and educational opportunities. Aswat translates and publishes original texts related to sexuality and gender identity previously unavailable in the Arabic language, and hosts the largest collection of Arabic-language texts related to homosexuality on its website.[12] Aswat works to raise community awareness of the intersecting identities of "Palestinian," "Gay" and "Female." In 2005, Palestinian Queers for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions order against Israel (BDS) formed to organize Palestinian activists who identity as LBGTQ and provide an open space to discuss Palestinian resistance against Israel in a queer context.[13]

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