LGBT rights in Egypt

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LGBT rights in Egypt
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Not specifically outlawed, other laws apply.
Prison time, fines.
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Military service No
Discrimination protections None

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in Egypt are coloured by the fact that the very existence of homosexuality is barely acknowledged by Egypt's ruling administration and much of the public. Homosexual acts are thus covered by general legislation governing public morality. In the 21st century, this legislation has been subject to stricter interpretation, and consequentially homosexual men live under continual threat of persecution and imprisonment.

The taboo with regards to homosexuality is extremely powerful, which produces a number of social issues of concern to some human rights groups.

Criminal Laws

Egypt is influenced by the civil law system. As the criminal code is silent on the subject of private, adult and consensual homosexual acts, and cross-dressing, they are not de jure illegal in Egypt. However, since 2000 certain laws have been used to impose what amounts to a de facto ban on homosexuality and cross-dressing.

In 2000, police arrested a Egyptian gay couple and charged them with, "violation of honor by threat" and "practicing immoral and indecent behavior". Their lawyer asked that the charges be dropped because homosexuality is not a crime, but the judge refused on the grounds that two men had in fact "offended" religious and moral standards [1]. 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 sent them to a mental institution to be reformed [2].

Within a year, the Egyptian government began a public crackdown on Egyptian gay men by raiding private parties, arresting the guests and charging them with various laws, including violating the "Public Order & Public Morals" code, enacted in the 1990s to combat "Satanic" and "lewd" expressions, as well as engaging in prostitution and "violating the teachings of religion and propagating depraved ideas and moral depravity." [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 vaguely worded laws such as "violating the teachings of religion", "propagating depraved ideas", "contempt of religion" and "moral depravity." Due to logistical purposes, a copy of the Egyptian Penal Code is not easily attainable by foreign persons of interest, or interest groups who cannot read Arabic. The Human Rights Watch has translated and published portions of the penal code online[1].

The Cairo 52 were defended by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. However, they had no organized internal support, plead innocent, and were tried under the state security courts. Members of the German parliament and the French President called upon the Egyptian government to respect the human rights of its LGBT citizens.[2][3] Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to prison with hard labor, while the others were acquitted.[4] 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 June 20th, 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.[5] On September 24, 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.[6]

As of 2007, crackdown continues[citation needed]. 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.[7]

The Egyptian government's response to the international criticism was either to deny that they were persecuting LGBT people[8] or to defend their policies by stating that homosexuality is a moral perversion[9].

Gender Identity

In the 1990s Sayed Abdullah was the first Egyptian to legally undergo a sex-change operation becoming Sali Abdullah [4]. While the law appears to provide for sex-change operations and obtaining new legal documents, the issue of gender identity generally remains taboo.

In 1998 the Egyptian government formally banned the music by Israeli transsexual, Dana International, from being aired or sold in the nation [5].

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Egyptian Law only recognizes a marriage between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are all prohibited by law[citation needed]. 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 immorality.

LGBT Rights Advocacy

No national or local law provides civil rights protection based on sexual orientation or gender identity. No Egyptian political party or interest group has formally supported enacting such laws or otherwise endorsed LGBT-rights.

Egyptian human rights organizations are reportedly afraid of defending LGBT-rights given the level of prejudice and hostility involved Egypt’s “Human Rights” Groups</ref>. No Egyptian politician has expressed support of LGBT-rights, instead politicians have called for the execution of homosexuals or their segreation from society into prisons and mental institutions until they are reformed.

Living conditions

Until 2001, the Egyptian government refused to recognize the existence of homosexuality,[10] and now does so only to brush off criticism from human rights organizations and foreign politicians.

Most Egyptians see homosexuality and transgenderism as forbidden and detestable acts, even before the Egyptian government started using the national security courts and various laws against indecency and immorality to arrest groups of LGBT people at nightclubs, private events, and in online chatrooms. Most LGBT native Egyptians and foreigners live in the closet, and any gathering of LGBT people is entirely underground.


LGBT-themes are not prohibited per se, although they can prompt controversy from religious conservatives, which can lead to a government crackdown. Recently, LGBT themes have appeared in some Egyptian films.

Controversial films such as "Uncensored" (2009), "Out of Control" (2009), "A Plastic Plate" (2007) and "The Yacoubian Building" (2006) all received controversial and threats of censorship for depicting characters who were gay, lesbian or bisexual [6].


The pandemic first reached Egypt in the 1980s, although public health effort were left to NGO's until the 1990s.

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[11] 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[12].

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

See also


External links


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