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LGBT rights in Egypt

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LGBT rights in Egypt

LGBT rights in Egypt
Same-sex sexual activity legal? illegal
Not specifically outlawed, under other morality laws punishment up to 17 years with or without hard labor and fines (not well enforced)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Egypt face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents.

Egyptian sexologist [2]


  • Criminal laws 1
    • Mubarak regime 1.1
    • Post Mubarak 1.2
  • Recognition of same-sex relationships 2
  • Living conditions 3
    • LGBT rights 3.1
    • Media 3.2
  • Health 4
    • HIV/AIDS 4.1
  • Summary table 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Criminal laws

Mubarak regime

During most of the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian government did not support LGBT-rights legislation at home and objected to attempts, starting in the 1990s, to have the United Nations include LGBT-rights within its human rights mission. While the Mubarak regime did not support LGBT-rights, it did not enact an obvious ban on homosexuality or cross-dressing in the criminal code.

Criminal sanctions against gay and bisexual men tended to arise from the nation's law against prostitution, in that it contained a prohibition on "debauchery", even if the act did not involve trafficking or prostitution.

Egyptian court's interpreted the ban on debauchery to criminalize homosexual relations between consenting adults. Repeat offenders of the law can face even harsher punishment for what the law views as "habitual debauchery".

In addition to the law on prostitution, other public morality or order-based laws gave the police and judges significant leeway to jail or fine gay and bisexual men. While arrests had been periodically occurring under these laws for decades, a more systematic crackdown appeared to have begun in the early part of the twenty-five century.

Beginning in 2000, under Hosni Mubarak, these laws were used to engage in a more sophisticated and systematic crackdown on gay or bisexual men, or indeed anyone deemed by the government to be supportive of LGBT-rights.

In 2000, police arrested an Egyptian gay couple and charged them with, "violation of honor by threat" and "practising immoral and indecent behavior". Their lawyer asked that the charges be dropped because homosexuality was not a crime, but the judge refused on the grounds that two men had in fact "offended" religious and moral standards.[3] The incident became a media sensation, promoting various public figures to view homosexuality as a product of Western decadence and demand that the government execute homosexuals or send them to mental institutions to be reformed.[3]

Within a year, the Egyptian government began a public crackdown on Egyptian gay men by raiding private parties, arresting the guests and charging them under the Prostitution and Debauchery law. This crackdown also saw the "Public Order and Public Morals" code being increasingly used to criminalize the sexuality of gay and bisexual men. The code, originally enacted in the 1990s to punish westernized students and liberal intellectuals, was now being used to punish gay and bisexual men.[3]

The first of these raids was at a Cairo boat party, where all the Egyptian gay men, fifty-two, were arrested and charged with violating these vague public morality laws. The "Cairo 52" were arrested and tried on the original Prostitution and Debauchery law, as well as the newer Public Order and Public Morality code.

The impact of these laws on gay and bisexual men were brought to the world's attention by the Human Rights Watch.

It was during this time that the Human Rights Watch published a report on the laws used by the Egyptian government to criminalize homosexuality, the history of the laws, use of torture to against gay and bisexual men by the police, and how such laws violate international human rights standards.[4]

The LGBT citizens.[5][6] Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to prison with hard labor, while the others were acquitted.[7] More men have been arrested in various raids on homosexuals, although foreigners tend to be released quickly.

In many recent situations, the men are being arrested for meeting or attempting to meet other adult men through various Internet chatrooms and message boards. This was the case on 20 June 2003, when an Israeli tourist in Egypt was jailed for homosexuality for about fifteen days before he was eventually released and allowed to return to Israel.[8] On 24 September 2003, police set up checkpoints at both sides of the Qasr al-Nil Bridge, which spans the Nile in downtown Cairo and is a popular place for adult men to meet other men for sex, arrested 62 men for homosexuality.[9]

In 2004 a seventeen-year-old private university student received a 17 years sentence in prison including 2 years hard labor, for posting a personal profile on a gay dating site.[10]

The Egyptian government's response to the international criticism was either to deny that they were persecuting LGBT people[11] or to defend their policies by stating that homosexuality is a moral perversion.[12]

In 2009, Al Balagh Al Gadid, a weekly Egyptian newspaper was banned, and two of its reporters were jailed for printing a news article that accused high profile Egyptian actors Nour El Sherif, Khaled Aboul Naga and Hamdi El Wazir of being involved in a homosexual prostitution sex ring and in bribing government agents to cover up their involvement.[13]

Post Mubarak

LGBT-rights issues were not among the reforms demanded by any of the protesters or other dissidents during the 2011 revolution.[14] The provisional constitution, approved by voters in 2011, does not specifically address LGBT-rights and the Egyptian government continued to oppose a failed United Nations declaration that would condemn anti-gay discrimination and harassment.[14]

In 2013, Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef said on The Daily Show, in an interview with Jon Stewart, that he had been charged with "propagating and promoting homosexuality and obscenity" by the Morsi government.[15]

In November 2014, eight men were sentenced to three years in prison for charges of spreading indecent images, following the circulation of a video of a gay marriage ceremony.[16]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Personal and family law in Egypt (e.g. the laws of marriage, divorce, and inheritance) are governed by the religious law of the person or persons in question. As the religious law of all officially-recognized religions in Egypt (chief among them Islam and Coptic Orthodox Christianity) do not recognize homosexual relationships as legitimate, Egyptian law only recognizes a marriage between a man and a woman. Reports suggest that if such a relationship becomes public, the police may use it as evidence in a criminal indictment for the various laws against Satanism, prostitution and public immorality.

Living conditions

Until 2001, the Egyptian government refused to recognize that homosexuality was the sexual identity for some of its residents,[17] and after 2001, it only did so only to brush off criticism from human rights organizations and foreign politicians.

Culturally, most Egyptian citizens are Muslim, which impacts prevailing social biases and attitudes. Traditional Islamic morality does not condone homosexuality. According to [2]

While the Egyptian legal system is strongly influenced by the civil law system, Islam is the official state religion. In fact the most recent Constitution stipulates that Islamic law shall be the main source of legislation (Article 2).

Homosexuality has recently become more visible in Egypt, thanks to the rise of social media and Arab Spring demonstrations. There was widespread Egyptian media coverage of the LGBT celebrations of International Day Against Homophobia. In recent years there has also been a rise in the number of bars and cafes catering to gays in Egypt, such as Alexandria.[1]

LGBT rights

One of the few Egyptians to publicly support LGBT-rights has been Maher Sabry. Along with his human rights efforts on behalf of the Cairo 52, he also wrote a play on homophobia in Egypt and later directed the ground breaking Egyptian film, All My Life (film).


Technically, LGBT-themes are not prohibited per se, in the press, artwork or other of forms of communicative media. However, most media depictions of cross-dressing or homosexuality have been negative in keeping with traditional Islamic values. More liberal attitudes in the media do tend to be censored by the government for being 'obscene' or 'promoting' homosexuality.

In 1999, the public performance of a play by Maher Sabry, which explored homophobia, was shut down by the government after a few performances. In 2008, Sabry directed a ground breaking, award winning, Independent film about an Egyptian gay man, which provoked protests from clerics and government officials who wanted the film banned, if not destroyed.[18]

A weekly newspaper called the Al Balagh Al Gadid was shut down, two reporters jailed, for printing a story that accused Egyptian actors Nour El Sherif, Khaled Aboul Naga and Hamdi El Wazir of bribing police officers in order to cover up their involvement with homosexual prostitution.[13]

Likewise, when an Egyptian film or television program does deal with LGBT-themes it tends to do so in a negative fashion, but even a negative depiction still produces controversy from social conservatives. Recent films such as "Uncensored" (2009), "Out of Control" (2009), "A Plastic Plate" (2007) and The Yacoubian Building (2006) all depict many different taboos within Egyptian society, including homosexuality, which promoted public calls from social conservatives to censor or ban the film's exhibition.

In 2013, Family Secrets premiered in Egypt and was billed as the first Egyptian and Arab movie about the life of an eighteen year old man struggling with his sexual identity, and the social stigma surrounding homosexuality. The director made international headlines when he refused the Egyptian censorship board request that he delete certain scenes in the film.



The pandemic first reached Egypt in the 1980s, although public health effort were left to NGO's until the 1990s, when the government began to initiative polices and programs in response to the pandemic.

In 1996 the Health Ministry set up a national AIDS hotline. A 1999 "Egypt Today" cover story dealt with the AIDS-HIV pandemic in Egypt and the fact that it commonly seen as something caused by foreigners, homosexuals, or drug users. The article also mentioned that there was talk of a LGBT organization being created to target the Egyptian LGBT community, and while a same-sex safer sex brochure was published, the organization was never created[19] and ignorance about the pandemic is common.

In 2005 the Egyptian government started to allow for confidential HIV testing, although most people fear that being tested positive will result in being labelled as a homosexual and thus a de facto criminal. Some Egyptians have access to home test kits brought back from the United States, but most Egyptians lack accurate information about the pandemic and quality care if they do become infected.[20]

In 2007 the Egyptian government aired an educational film about AIDS-HIV in Egypt, with interviews from members of Health Ministry, doctors and nurses.

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal No (Penalty: While not specifically outlawed, under morality laws punishment can be up to 17 years in prison with or without hard labor & fines)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (Incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also


  1. ^ a b "Gay Egyptians come out of the closet." Ynetnews. 10 June 2013. 10 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b "The Global Divide on Homosexuality." pewglobal. 4 June 2013. 4 June 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  4. ^ In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice In Egypt’s Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct: APPENDIX: Laws Affecting Male Homosexual Conduct in Egypt, Human Rights Watch
  5. ^ "German MPs Want Egypt to End Trial of Homosexuals". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  6. ^ "French President Worried About Fate Of Egyptian Gays". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  7. ^ "Egypt Sentences 23 of 52 Suspected Gays". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  8. ^ New Page 1
  9. ^ News & Politics
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Egypt Spars With US Congressmen Over Gay Arrests". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  12. ^ "Egypt Officially Brands Homosexuality ‘Perverted’". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b "Gays in Egypt join anti-gov’t protests » Washington Blade | Gay News | Washington, DC | LGBT". Washington Blade. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  15. ^ "Bassem Youssef, 'Egyptian Jon Stewart,' Appears on 'Daily Show' (Video)" The Hollywood Reporter. April 25, 2013. July 5, 2013.
  16. ^ Tadros, Sherine (6 November 2014). "'"Crackdown As Men Jailed Over 'Gay Wedding. Sky News. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  17. ^ BBC NEWS | Programmes | Crossing Continents |Egypt crackdown on homosexuals, Thursday 7 March 2002 at 1100 GMT on BBC Radio Four
  18. ^ Mubarak Dahir (2002-05-10). "Activist Fights for Gay Rights in Egypt". Alternet. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  19. ^ "Gay Marriage Results in Prosecution". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  20. ^ "Egypt’s Fearful Gays Shy from HIV Testing". Retrieved 2014-06-29. 

External links

  • Gay Egypt
  • In a Time of Torture: The Assault on Justice In Egypt's Crackdown on Homosexual Conduct March 2004, Human Rights Watch
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