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In Libya, there is a de-facto criminalization of gender nonconformity and the process of transitioning, which encompasses social, medical, and surgical aspects. This is enforced through legal provisions that pertain to indecent acts and illicit intercourse. Recent religious rulings in the country have designated the use of the term “gender” as Haram, as in not permissible religiously. Consequently, individuals who employ this terminology in the media and government institutions are susceptible to punishment.

Transgender individuals encounter significant obstacles when attempting to access gender-affirming healthcare. Moreover, the issue of availability of such care remains a topic of contention for intersex individuals. Furthermore, there is no established legal framework for gender recognition, and no instances have been reported of attempts to seek gender recognition in Libyan courts. The ongoing political conflict that has engulfed the country since 2011 further compounds these challenges. Armed militias retaliate against gender-diverse and LGBTQIA+ individuals without affording them the rights of due process.

Defacto: There are no explicit laws that criminalize social, medical, or surgical transition. However, it is important to note that gender nonconformity is effectively criminalized based on “sex crimes” articles, as evidenced by the following legal articles:

[ … ] If anyone has sexual intercourse with a person with that person’s consent, both he and his partner shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.

[ … ] If anyone who commits indecent assault upon a person with that person’s consent, both he and his partner shall be punished by detention.

Anyone who commits an indecent act in an open public place or a place accessible to the public shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding LYD 50.

The same penalty shall apply to anyone who violates decency by distributing indecent letters, pictures, or other articles, or who exposes the same to the public or offers the same for sale. Artistic or scientific productions shall not be considered indecent items unless they are provided for other than educational purposes to a person under the age of eighteen years for sale to him or if they are offered for sale to him or if he is facilitated in the obtaining thereof by any means.

The mere discussion of the topic of transition is considered offensive, particularly in light of the recent Fatwa issued by the Libyan Sharia Research and Studies Council (Dar al Iftaa). The Fatwa explicitly declares the use of the term “gender” as Haram, and calls for severe punishment to be imposed on those who employ this term, especially within government departments and on official documents.

There is a lack of reliable and specific documentation regarding the targeting of transgender individuals in Libya.However, local non-governmental organizations consistently highlight cases where members of the LGBTQIA+ community in general are subjected to arrest, torture, public humiliation through the dissemination of demeaning photographs, and even forced disappearances. 

There is currently no established legal mechanism available for transgender individuals to pursue legal gender recognition. The existing process for altering and rectifying entries in the civil status registry is characterized by ambiguity, allowing for the involvement of multiple parties in the correction process, and necessitates judicial authorization in accordance with the stipulations set forth in the applicable provisions of the Civil Status Code (Law 36/1968).

Rectification or change proceedings are instituted against the competent municipality and may be instituted by the civil registrar against the author. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is represented in the proceedings in any event.

The plaintiff shall publish a summary of the case in the local newspapers three times on different days and on the billboard of the competent municipality. The proceedings shall not be heard until one month after the date of the last announcement in the newspapers.

The Registry shall notify the competent Civil Registry Office of the mere filing of the correction or change, and the Registrar and any other person may intervene in the proceedings.

No known cases of attempts to obtain legal gender recognition in Libya have been found.

Gender-affirming healthcare remains inaccessible for transgender individuals in Libya. While corrective procedures are technically allowed for intersex individuals, the access to such care is disputed among LGBTQIA+ activists. Although there are no explicit legal provisions that prohibit healthcare professionals from providing gender-affirming care to patients, the exclusion of the term “gender” within the Ministry of Health, as previously noted, signifies the ministry’s opposition to delivering such care. To date, there have been no documented reports explicitly connecting gender-affirming care as a justification for the arrest of medical practitioners in Libya.

Libyan religious authorities have issued two significant Fatwas which discuss the subject matter of gender affirming healthcare.

The political and judicial systems in Libya are intricately entangled with an ongoing political conflict. The multifaceted dynamics involve various factions competing for power, resulting in a state of affairs governed by armed militias. Unfortunately, these militias do not consistently adhere to the principles of due process, particularly when it comes to individuals who deviate from societal norms. Regrettably, it is widely acknowledged within the community that numerous activists and individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+ have been subjected to enforced disappearances after expressing their views or identity too openly. Disturbingly, their whereabouts and well-being continue to remain undisclosed, even years after these incidents occurred. Due to the ongoing conflict, the aforementioned legislation is applicable within the territories under the control of the government.