Egypt has been recognized as a country where LGBT citizens are experiencing significant backlash and oppression from the government and police.
While twenty countries, including the United States, have passed significant civil rights protections or marriage equality laws, 85 countries have laws that criminalize homosexuality, ten of them impose a death sentence, and additionally, many remaining countries like Egypt, do not have explicit laws criminalizing homosexuality but arrest people under morality laws.
As many countries pass equality laws and support marriage equality other countries push back to reinforce their views that homosexuality is not acceptable and criminal. Others use anti-homosexual agendas to advance political agendas.
Egypt’s current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is accused of this. After assuming the Presidency that Mohamed Morsi was removed from through a military coup, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is determined to use an anti-homosexual agenda that includes mass arrests to demonstrate to Egypt and the world that while his leadership is secular, it still upholds conservative values (HRC.org).
The Guardian UK reports that many in Egypt see homosexuality as a “western phenomenon that is being imported.” J Feder of Buzz Feed reports that many in Russia share the same views. Leaders in these counties appeal to the people that they will not be persuaded to abandon tradition for the evolving western society.
Numerous arrests have occurred in Egypt since 2013 when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took Presidency. In 2014, 8 men were arrested for attending the country’s first gay wedding (the Guardian UK). A recording of the wedding aired on Youtube and police tracked down the men.
It is believed that an additional 35 men were arrested through “Dragnet” operations around the same time (the Guardian UK).
The secular government is under pressure from groups like the Muslim Brotherhood who perpetuate claims that “it is the destruction or Egyptian values that is plaguing the country (the Guardian UK).”
Homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Egypt but not accepted in society, there are no civil rights protections, and many LGBT people arrested and jailed for years for immorality charges. The most common charge is “offending public morals and sensitivities (the Guardian UK).
In 2001, one of the largest arrests occurred, 52 men were arrested in the “Queen Boat” case (the Guardian UK). Police invaded a private charter as gay men socialized on the boat. The police interrupted with violence and 52 men received prison sentences of 3 to 5 years. In addition, many of the men were subjected to medical examinations to determine if they had engaged in homosexual activity.
The same year, 52 men were arrested at a nightclub in Cairo. There are reports of 9 police raids from October 2013 to April 2014; many at private homes. Journalists report many say “people have stopped going to cafes and boating (the Guardian UK).”
In April of 2014, 4 men were arrested within hours of signing a lease on an apartment in Cairo. They were sentenced 8 years in prison (the Guardian UK).
The gay community is considered underground but much stronger since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution.
Currently, the government and courts are following through with the deportation of a man from Libya who was arrested in 2008 for suspicion of being homosexual (the Guardian UK)
There are an estimated 150 arrests since 2013 when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed Presidency. In addition to the arrests, the state and media are continuously running a “vicious campaign against LGBT people (the Guardian UK).”
In January, a transgender woman was arrested and sentenced to 6 years in prison for a YouTube post. HRC.org reports that police are working with journalists to ensure that the arrests are highly visible (HRC.org).
While there is great progress worldwide for LGBT Civil Rights and Human Rights there is also much work to be done. Presidential candidates like; Hillary Clinton recognize “LGBT rights as human rights around the globe” and intend to address them (HRC.org). President Obama has taken many actions to advance equality and human rights internationally. Randy Berry was appointed as the first U.S. Federal Official with a mandate to advance LGBT right internationally as the State Department’s LGBT human rights Envoy.