Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


Sanaz Alasti


This article undertakes a comparative study of cruel and unusual punishment for consensual homosexual acts, in the United States and Iran, based on the prohibition of these punishments in international conventions. The primary object of this paper is to establish that the criminalization of consensual homosexual acts is arbitrary and as capricious as punishing other minorities. Furthermore, criminalization contradicts the object and purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and virtually every other law concerning sexual minorities. This article is further motivated by the novelty and necessity of the topic. Surprisingly little research has been done focusing on this issue, and existing works are far from comprehensive. Although my study should not be viewed as the ultimate source for reviewing the inhumane punishment of homosexuals throughout the world, it is hoped that other studies will continue this research by providing a more intimate look at actual cases in other countries, including anecdotal information. This research is organized into six sections. Section One has two parts, defining cruel and unusual punishment at the national and international levels, using the United States and Iran as examples. Section Two discusses the criminal statutes prohibiting sodomy in Iran and the United States. Sections Three and Four examine the issues of execution and other corporal punishment of sexual minorities in Iran, and violations of international conventions in this regard. Section Five describes homosexuality as a status, and discusses whether punishing sodomy is cruel and unusual. Finally, Section Six challenges the proportionality doctrine and evolving standards concerning sodomy laws within society.