(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)
While no specific laws criminalise homosexuality in Egypt, ‘public morality’ laws have been applied to prosecute men suspected of engaging in same-sex acts (see below case law for examples). These laws are not applied to prosecute sexual acts between women.
Article 9(c) of Law No. 10/1961 on Combating Prostitution, Incitement and its Encouragement criminalises the ‘habitual practice of debauchery’ [di’araor fujur]. The offence covers consensual sexual acts between men.
Article 38 of the draft Egyptian Constitution provides that ‘Citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them based on sex, gender, origin, language, religion, belief, or any other reason’. However, this constitutional right does not protect against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
2013 proposed amendments to the Draft Constitution are susceptible to contradict the right to equality. Article 10, which entrusts the State with the consolidation of ‘moral values’ of the family, could provide the basis for discrimination against LGBTI people who would be found not to conform to narrow interpretations of the term ‘family’.
Asylum case law:
Decision 1102877 RRTA 101 (Australian Refugee Review Tribunal, 23 February 2013) ruled that an applicant had a well-founded fear of persecution upon return to Egypt, given the country’s lack of effective state protection (para 96).
AD (Egypt) NZIPT 800177 (New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal, 15 December 2011) held that a claimant had a well-founded fear of being persecuted upon return to Egypt because he was homosexual: ‘[t]he Tribunal finds that, objectively, on the facts as found, there is a realchance of the appellant being persecuted if returned to Egypt. His predicament is on account of his membership of a particular social group: homosexuals. The appellant is a refugee within the meaning of Article 1A(2) of the Refugee Convention’ (para 68).
Domestic prosecution case law:
Cairo Court 9 April 2008
Five men were convicted for ‘debauchery’ and sentenced to prison and to pay a fine. A Cairo appeals’ court upheld the maximum three-year sentence for each of them.
Cairo Court 13 January 2008
Four men were convicted for homosexual conduct under the offence of ‘habitual practice of debauchery’. The conviction, leading to a one-year sentence, was upheld at appeal.
PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT
In 2001, Human Rights Watch reported that the Egyptian authorities arrested over 30 men on the ‘Queen Boat’ cruise vessel. The men were convicted for ‘debauchery’ under Law No. 10/1961 and depicted by the Egyptian media as devil-worshippers who practiced perverted activities.
In its 2004 report entitled In a Time of Torture, Human Rights Watch notes that, because homosexual men are at risk of arrest and abuse by police, they are defenceless against abuse by private actors. The report highlights cases of homosexual men who approached the police to report crimes against them, but who were then subjected to blackmail, abuse and even arrest and charge for ‘habitual debauchery’.
In 2007-2008, the Egyptian authorities were criticised by international human rights organisations following the arrest and torture of men suspected of ‘debauchery’ under Law No. 10/1961.In Cairo and Alexandria, men were detained and beaten. To ‘prove’ their homosexuality, they were forcibly subjected to anal examinations and tested for HIV/AIDS without their consent.
Sources concur that attitudes to homosexuality have remained equally, if not more, hostile since the 2011 Arab Spring. While the Muslim Brotherhood has been accused of spreading homophobia to win votes, arrests of those suspected of ‘debauchery’ continue and vigilantes have taken the law into their own hands: in 2012, four gay men were reportedly beaten and detained by ‘moral vigilantes’ when found having sex in a car.The Australian Refugee Review Tribunal’s Research Response EGY17595 notes that gay-related assaults, outside the official realm, are rarely, if ever, reported.
Those who reveal their homosexuality, or are perceived as homosexual, face hostility and stigma. Against this backdrop, many homosexuals fear coming out even to their family members.Those who do often face dire consequences such as ‘imprisonment’ in the family home or even corrective rape by their family members themselves, according to information provided by Amnesty International. Accordingly, the same report notes that a number of gay men and lesbian women in Egypt often enter into ‘cover marriages’ with each other to ease social pressures.The US Department of State 2008 Country report on Egypt also notes that significant social stigma is attached to homosexual persons in society and the workplace.
A noteworthy example of public perceptions of homosexuality is the ruling of the Minsdemeanour Court of Al Sayeda Zainab 7 January 2010 which ordered two journalists to pay a 40,000 Egyptian pound fine each for issuing a report claiming that four Egyptian actors (Nour Al Sharif, Khalid Abul Naga and Hamdi Al Wazir) had engaged in homosexual acts in a Cairo hotel. Actor Nour Al Sharif reported: ‘[n]aming me among homosexuals defamed me and all Egyptian artists’.
Similar views towards homosexuality are held by Egyptian officials. Amnesty International reports: ‘In June 2012, an Egyptian UN representative told the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and on Countering Terrorism that sexual orientation was “highly controversial” and “not part of the universally recognized human rights”. He said that the Special Rapporteurs should concentrate on the human rights of “real people”’.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) has refused to defend LGBTI rights for religious and cultural reasons.
We do not currently list any NGOs working with LGBTI persons in Egypt, but welcome suggestions.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS
Dr Scott Long
Email: scottlong1980gmail [dot] com
Dr Scott Long, Ph.D., Harvard, has led a long career in LGBTI rights activism focusing on Eastern Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. He has taught in Hungary, Romania and the Human Rights Program of Harvard Law School. Dr Scott Long was programme director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) from 1996 to 2002 and led the organisation’s advocacy at the 2001 UN General Assembly’s Special Session on HIV/AIDS. He founded and directed the Human Rights Watch's LGBT Rights Program until 2010 and has produced reports on the situation of LGBTI persons in Egypt, Iraq and Iran, discrimination against binational same-sex couples in the United States, as well as working with LGBTI activists in Russia. Dr Scott Long blogs on human rights-related issues on http://paper-bird.net/.
Researched by: Minos Mouzourakis
Email: minosmouzourakisgmail [dot] com
Brian Whitaker is a former Middle East editor of the Guardian newspaper. He can provide background on LGBTI, apostasy and atheism issues in the Arab countries, plus monitoring of relevant media coverage.
- Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East (Saqi Books, 2011)
- Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East (text available online: http://al-bab.com/awg-intro)