Criminalizing Consensual Sex: Egypt’s Crackdown on LGBT Rights

By Laura Galeano, Program Assistant, Amnesty International USA

In Egypt Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961 criminalizes the habitual practice of prostitution or “debauchery”.

This law, as written, reflects the time period in which it was drafted. It is outdated and broad, and it is the reason dozens of Egyptian nationals have been persecuted, tormented and arrested following the display of a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo on September 22nd.

These individuals have been living a nightmare since then. According to an Amnesty press release, at least five men among those arrested were subjected to anal examinations that amount to torture and at least 20 were sentenced to between six-month and six-year prison terms in significantly expedited trials. The rest of the detainees are held in different prisons and police stations pending questioning by prosecutors.

Since this crackdown, more than 60 members of parliament have proposed a bill that would criminalize same-sex relationships and same-sex sexual activity. As an important note, homosexuality is technically legal in Egypt. However, those that commit homosexual “acts” are often tried under laws pertaining to debauchery that are normally used to prosecute sex workers. Amnesty International recommends the decriminalization of consensual sex work, including those laws that prohibit associated activities — such as bans on buying, solicitation and general organization of sex work.

In a push that seems to specifically target the display of a rainbow flag at the Mashrou’ Leila concert, the bill also proposes a prohibition on public promotion or advertising of any LGBT gatherings or parties, whether through audio or video publications or via social media. These acts can earn you up to 3 years in prison.

This law will only serve to further alienate and marginalize a community of people that are already at risk if they live openly. Egypt’s hostile environment towards its LGBT community can be counted among the laundry list of ways that the government has moved towards condemning human rights. Mashrou’ Leila has since been banned from the country since the display of the rainbow flag at the band’s concert, and the wave of arrests have left people disoriented and discouraged.

The assault on LGBT rights is part of a wider government effort to silence all of Egyptian civil society. Egyptian legislation has closed most independent media and human rights and other non-governmental organizations. Many of their leaders are in jail or dead. To enforce these acts, police and security forces have free rein to conduct extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances. Torture is systematic. Effectively, the government has shut down all space for public action in Egypt.

The news of this crackdown coincides directly with the crackdown in Azerbaijan where, on September 22nd, Azerbaijani police launched mass raids on Baku’s LGBT community, rounding up and detaining more than 100 people.

Before the raids in Baku was the raid in Chechnya, where over a hundred men suspected of being gay were abducted, tortured and killed.

Before the raid in Chechnya was the crackdown in Indonesia, where a special task force was enacted specifically to target LGBT people.

Countless other human rights abuses can be counted among these targeted at the LGBT community. This blatant use of torture and persecution based on people’s perceived sexual orientation or gender identity must end.

We are asking activists to take a stand and fight for LGBT rights.

Please sign this petition calling on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all those detained on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation, quash the sentences of those already convicted and drop all charges
  • Immediately end all forced anal examinations on detainees as they amount to torture and or other ill-treatment and order a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into the examinations that have already taken place
  • Reject the bill criminalizing “same-sex activity” and any future legislation which fails to recognize and protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, to freedom of expression and assembly, freedom from discrimination and equality before the law

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