Homosexuality is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, but the Mediterranean country’s public prosecutor is prioritizing hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation…
Egypt’s media has been banned from mentioning the LGBT community as a homophobic purge continues, with an official pronouncement referring to homosexuality as a “sickness.”
A crackdown began in Egypt after a rainbow flag was waved at a concert in Cairo by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila—whose lead singer is openly gay—on September 22. The flag-raising was a rare public show of support for the LGBT community in the conservative Muslim country, and it provoked a public outcry. Three days after the concert, after images went viral on social media, Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered State Security prosecutors to investigate an “incident” that “incited homosexuality.”
Following Sadek͛’s order, Egyptian authorities began an intense purge͛ targeted at the country͛’s gay community, raiding homes and arresting more than 60 people to date, according to sources. According to Amnesty International, the Forensic Medical Authority has carried out anal examinations on some of those arrested in relation with the flag incident. Such procedures are used regularly in prosecuting homosexual sex in Egypt.
Homosexuality is not explicitly criminalized under Egyptian law, but in the past the authorities have routinely arrested people they suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual conduct, on charges of “debauchery,” “immorality” or “blasphemy.”
The recent arrests have been followed by the country banning the media from reporting on the issue—while imposing a ban on LGBT people being mentioned on TV, film and radio, as well as in online or print media.
Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation issued the statement, which “prohibits the appearance of homosexuals or their slogans in the media,” branding homosexuality a “sickness.”
The order forbids any appearance of the LGBT community “in any media outlet whether written, audio, or visual, except when they acknowledge the fact that their conduct is inappropriate and repent for it.”
A translation of the notice provided by Human Rights Watch reads: “The Supreme Council for Media Regulation prohibits the promotion or dissemination of homosexual slogans. Homosexuality is a sickness and disgrace that would be better hidden from view and not promoted for dissemination until it is treated and its disgrace removed. This is to preserve order and public decency and out of respect for the values and correct beliefs of society. Promotion of these slogans is also a corruption of society that should be punished…. It is forbidden for homosexuals to appear in any media outlet whether written, audio, or visual, except when they acknowledge the fact that their conduct is inappropriate and repent for it.”
Makram Mohammed Ahmed, president of the council, insisted that homosexuality “must be treated and removed as a sickness spreading among the youth.”
According to Ahmed: “It is an illness that is spreading for reasons that ought to be exposed and treated, including because of the complete reliance on servants for child rearing, weak parental supervision over children͛s behaviour, and socializing with the wrong circles.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, “Egypt should immediately halt this vicious crackdown on a vulnerable group simply for waving a flag….Repression will not turn gay people straight—it will only perpetuate fear and abuse. There͛s no possible objective or scientific reason to throw people in prison simply because of their sexuality. Given the mass arrests and climate of fear, truly objective reporting on this issue and giving LGBT people a voice is more important than ever.”