EGYPT: STOP HOMOPHOBIC PERSECUTION
Egyptian security forces have detained masses of people for their perceived sexual orientation, following the display of a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo on September 22. As of December 19, 49 people have been sentenced for ‘inciting debauchery’ based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, and another 53 individuals remain in detention.
Now the Egyptian parliament is debating a new draft law which, if adopted, would criminalize same-sex relationships.
Please contact authorities immediately, urging them to:
Quash all sentences and drop all charges against them, and to stop any further arrests.Immediately and unconditionally release all those detained on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and drop the charges against them, and quash the sentences against those already convicted;; and
Immediately end all forced anal examinations on detainees that are used for the purpose of determining the sexual orientation of the victim, as they amount to torture and or other ill-treatment;
Order a prompt, impartial, and effective investigation into the examinations that have already taken place and bring those responsible to justice; and
Reject the bill criminalising “same-sex sexual activity” and drop any 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.
discrimination and equality before the law.protect Sara Hegazy from torture and ill-treatment and bring those responsible to justice.
According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the number of individuals arrested for their perceived sexual orientation has risen from 57 to at least 76 since the display of the rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo, the capital, on September 22.
Meanwhile, more than 60 members of parliament have signed a bill criminalizing “same-sex sexual activity” in Egypt. The bill is expected to be reviewed and discussed by parliament during its current session, and if approved it would be sent to the president for sign off. The law sets out penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment, depending on the number of charges and the provisions of law a person is convicted under.
Among other things, the bill prohibits the public promotion or advertising of any LGBTI gatherings or parties. The penalty set for such acts is up to three years imprisonment. The bill also includes a clause that obliges the authorities to publicly name individuals convicted under the bill. Their names and sentences would be published in two widely-read national newspapers, thus fuelling the widespread stigma against people perceived to be gay.
Amnesty International considers anyone who is detained solely for their real or perceived sexual orientation or their gender identity a prisoner of conscience.
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Authorities have carried out at least five forced anal examinations of those arrested, which contravene the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law. The security forces located two people who had allegedly raised the flag at the concert, and arrested people, unrelated to the flag incident, from different districts in Cairo, Ismalia, Damietta and Sharm al-Sheikh based on their perceived sexual orientation. They also used entrapment through online dating applications to locate people to arrest. In the week following the concert, at least nine men were sentenced to between one and six years’ imprisonment, and another 35 are facing expedited prosecutions.
Among those currently being questioned is one woman, Sara Hegazy. At least 55 of the detained people face charges that include “habitual debauchery,” “inciting debauchery”, and “promoting sexual deviance”. Sara Hegazy and a man have received the same charges in addition to “belonging to a banned group”. These charges can carry prison sentences of up to 15 years under the penal code and the law on prostitution. Sara Hegazy told the prosecutor who questioned her that she was beaten and sexually harassed by her cell mates in the Saida Zenab police station in Cairo after the security forces there informed her cellmates that she was charged with “habitual debauchery.”
Displaying the rainbow flag at a concert provoked a public outcry from local media, who called for those who raised the flag to be brought to justice. Following a smear campaign from local media, Egypt’s public prosecutor announced an investigation into the promotion of “habitual debauchery” and “homosexuality” on September 25. He further ordered state security prosecutors to open investigations against those who raised the flag.
The Supreme Media Council also issued a statement banning all media outlets from showing support, solidarity or sympathy to the LGBTI people and called on all media outlets to raise awareness against the “habitual debauchery” and LGBTI people, who it described “do not fit in the Egyptian society traditions or culture” and that “this LGBTI phenomenon must come to an end”.
Lawyers and NGOs in Egypt told Amnesty International that the number of people detained could be higher, but that they are not able to follow up on all the arrests because they are becoming widespread.
This is the worst campaign of state-sanctioned homophobia in Egypt’s recent history but is not an isolated incident, as it is similar to the mass arrest of 52 people following a raid on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub on the Nile, in 2001 which led to the conviction of 23 men. Over the past four years and before the events of the past week, police had arrested over 250 men for their perceived sexual orientation and prosecutors had brought them to trial, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has been tracking these trials.
READ MORE:Press release 30 September.
READ MORE:Press release 2 October.