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
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 and
Scene from “Be Like Others,” a 2008 documentary about sex-change operations in Iran. (Photo courtesy of and

Increasing proportion of requests for female-to-male sex-change permits
59.4% male-to-female applicants
40.6% female-to-male applicants
67.7 % male-to-female applicants
32.3% female-to-male applicants
59.5% male-to-female applicants
40.5% female-to-male applicants
46.5% male-to-female applicants
53.5% female-to-male applicants
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.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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