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Egyptian government refuses to acknowledge existence of LGBT people, even as it continues to arrest them

Patrick Kelleher March 27, 2020
Egypt LGBT arrests

Eight Egyptian men on trial for doing a video prosecutors claimed was of a gay wedding (AFP via Getty)

The government in Egypt has said it does not recognise the existence of sexuality and gender identity, but continues to arrest LGBT+ people for being who they are.

More than 90 people were arrested last year in Egypt for alleged same-sex conduct under the country’s debauchery law. Despite this, officials have suggested that they do “not recognise” the existence of queer people at all.

Earlier this month, a number of member states at the United Nations Human Rights Council recommended Egypt end arrests and discrimination of LGBT+ people.

The country refused to comply and bizarrely suggested it “does not recognize the terms mentioned in this recommendation”, according to Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch believes ‘outrageous’ arrests of LGBT+ people in Egypt could put lives at risk amid COVID-19 pandemic.

That organisation has warned that the “outrageous” response could end up putting the lives of LGBT+ people wrongly imprisoned in Egypt in jeopardy as the COVID-19 pandemic escalates.

Hundreds of people have been arrested in Egypt for their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, the human rights organisation has said.

The government began a crackdown on LGBT+ people in 2013 and over the last four years, queer people have been subjected to violent assault, torture, forced anal exams and arbitrary detention.

They also face challenges in accessing vital services including healthcare, housing and education and many struggle to find jobs.

Despite all of this, Egypt recently claimed in its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) with the United Nations that it “upholds human rights without discrimination”.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has called on member states, of which Egypt is one, to protect LGBT+ people – but Egypt does not appear to be taking note.

Queer people in the country can face significant challenges.

Egypt does not have a specific law banning homosexuality, however, the government has a number of provisions to criminalise any behaviour that is deemed immoral.

In October 2017, police raided homes and arrested more than 60 people under debauchery laws after a Mashrou’ Leila fan waved a rainbow flag at a gig in Cairo.

In 2001, 52 men were arrested and accused of having gay sex on a floating boat nightclub on the Nile, with some of them jailed over the incident.

Many Egyptians think that homosexuality is wrong. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 95 percent of Egyptians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

 

More: Coronavirus, Egypt, mashrou' leila, United Nations

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