(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
Same-sex sexual acts were legalised in Bahrain in 1976 after having been illegal in the country since the British imperial authorities implemented the Indian Penal Code in 1956. The age of consent for same-sex acts is twenty-one. However, while Bahrain had once been regarded as one of the most tolerant Muslim countries in the Middle East on LGBTI issues, the government has in recent years redirected restrictive measures towards what it identifies as “moral” issues. By including homosexual sexual acts and behaviour under the category of “immoral” behaviour, the government has attempted to indirectly ban homosexuality. The punishments for some of these crimes can include five months of hard labour and, although it is seldom sentenced, imprisonment of up to ten years. Cross-dressing is illegal in Bahrain, and the public morality laws prohibiting it have been enforced on numerous occasions in recent years.
No LGBTI asylum cases from Bahrain are listed here, but we welcome suggestions.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
There has been a significant crackdown in recent years on homosexuals in Bahrain, despite the legality of homosexuality in the country. In February 2011, over 100 people were arrested at what the government described as a “depraved and decadent” party for a same-sex wedding in a village in northern Bahrain, and law enforcement officials reportedly checked to see if any of the arrested individuals had previous histories of “debauchery or sodomy.” Reactions to the incident varied in the country, but the high number of voices calling for harsh punishments for the “sinners” suggests that strong conservative sentiments continue to shape the treatment of LGBTI individuals in the country.
Law enforcement officials also regularly inspect massage parlours and beauty shops, many of which are believed to be frequented by homosexuals. State officials believe that homosexuals, particularly those from Thailand and the Philippines, ostensibly migrate to Bahrain to work in the beauty industry but actually come to engage in homosexual activities. Law enforcement officials have sought out and deported foreigners within the gay community and have attempted to stop at the airports those whom they have suspected of being homosexual, preventing them from entering the country. Teachers are also trained to identify gay students and to administer appropriate punishments for perceived homosexual behaviour, even though the Education Ministry claims that there are no homosexual students in Bahrain’s schools.
A number of MPs have proposed legislation to criminalise homosexuality, and a plan was set forth in 2008 to conduct a state-sponsored survey to assess how widespread homosexuality is in Bahrain. One gay Bahraini man has said that there exists “a kind of strange denial” regarding homosexuality; while it is sometimes ignored, if not accepted, at other times the government cracks down on its public morality laws. Throughout these fluctuations in acceptance of sexual and gender identities that fall outside the traditionally accepted norms, LGBTI individuals are often unable to seek online resources for support because the government of Bahrain has blocked access to LGBTI websites.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
We do not currently list organisations supporting LGBTI persons in Bahrain, but would welcome suggestions.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
We do not currently list specialists in LGBTI issues in Bahrain but would welcome suggestions.
Researched by: Christina Kovacs
Email: christina [dot] e [dot] s [dot] kovacsgmail [dot] com