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Egypt: Draft Law Criminalizes Homosexuality

(Nov. 1, 2017) On October 25, 2017, members of the Council of Representatives (parliament) of Egypt proposed a draft law to criminalize what they describe as “acts of homosexuality.” Rayad Abdel Sattar, one of the Members of Parliament who submitted the draft law, stated that the main goal of the draft law is to constrain the presence of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Egypt. (Draft Law Criminalizing Homosexuality: Jail Time Between 3 and 5 Years, ARABYOUM (Oct. 25, 2017) (in Arabic).)

The draft law consists of five articles. Article 1 defines homosexuality as any person engaging in sexual intercourse with someone of the same sex. (Taha Sakr, MP Drafts Homophobic Law to Jail LGBT People or ‘Promoters’ in Egypt, EGYPT INDEPENDENT (Oct. 25, 2017).) Article 2 punishes individuals engaging in acts of homosexuality in a public or private place with a term of imprisonment of between one and three years. Article 2 further provides that if the individual has engaged in repeated acts of homosexuality, he/she will be imprisoned for five years. (Id.) Based on article 3, anyone who supports or promotes the acceptance of LGBT individuals in Egyptian society or the rights of the LGBT community in Egypt will be punishable upon conviction with a term of imprisonment of between one and three years. (Id.) Article 4 of the draft law punishes with three years of imprisonment representatives of the media (journalists and TV show hosts) who defend LGBT individuals and their presence in Egypt. Article 4 also states that any individuals who organize or participate in any gathering, including music parties involving the LGBT community, will be punishable with three years of imprisonment. (Id.) Finally, article 5 prohibits the display of any signs or flags or symbols of the LGBT community, including the rainbow flag. Individuals violating this prohibition will be punished upon conviction with a term of imprisonment of between one and three years. (Id.)

Reaction to the Draft Law

In reaction to the proposed law, international human rights organizations such as Human Rights First, dismissed the legislation as an oppressive tool to suppress the Egyptian LGBT community. Shawn Gaylord, a representative of Human Rights First, stated, “[i]n the 21st century, criminalization laws should be repealed, not introduced. This bill is nothing more than an attempt to further scapegoat a vulnerable community, and to further restrict basic rights and freedoms of all Egyptians.” (Press Release, Tillerson Urged to Condemn Proposed Egyptian Law Criminalizing Homosexuality (Oct. 26, 2017), HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST.)

Egyptian activists, such as Mona Eltahawy, have also voiced their concerns about the recent government measures against the LGBT community. Eltahawy describes the recent governmental crackdown against the Egyptian LGBT community as “hysterical homophobia.” She also announced that more than 60 individuals, mostly gay men, have been arrested, and that at least 20 of them have received prison sentences, ranging from six months to six years. (Mona Eltahawy, Why Is the Egyptian Government So Afraid of a Rainbow Flag?, NEW YORK TIMES (Oct. 26, 2017); see also Constance Johnson, United Nations: Rights Office Concerned about Arrests of LGBT Individuals, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 31, 2017).)