Homosexuality Isn't Illegal In Egypt But They're Arresting People Anyway

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In October, The New York Times reported that in a wave of "hysterical homophobia," Egyptian authorities had begun targeting members of the LGBTQ+ community — specifically gay men – for arrest. The outlet noted that the arrests began after concertgoers waved rainbow flags at a Mashrou' Leila show, a Lebanese indie band whose lead singer is gay, according to CNN. Approximately 65 people were arrested.

According to the International Business Times, at least 13 men have been given prison sentences. Homosexuality isn't illegal in Egypt so authorities in the conservative country instead arrest gay people for crimes such as debauchery, immorality, and blasphemy.

Amnesty International spoke to the IB Times about the treatment these individuals were subjected to while in police custody: "In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signalling a sharp escalation in the authorities' efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident," the North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty, Najia Bounaim, told the outlet.

Mohamed Ahmed, Amnesty International's Egypt researcher, said that authorities are "track[ing] people down" by looking at their dating apps.

Meanwhile, Egypt MP Riyad Abdel Sattar is working on a bill that directly targets the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, as reported by Gay Star News: "Any person engaging in homosexuality in a public or private place should be subjected to punitive action that should be no less than one year and not exceeding three years in jail," the measure reads.

If the bill passes, its ramifications will be far-reaching. In addition to threatening all members of the LGBTQ+ community, other people could be sentenced to prison time simply for holding a rainbow flag in public. Additionally, journalists who write about gay issues and events would do so at risk of imprisonment, according to Gay Star News.

As evidenced by the wave of arrests and Sattar's proposed legislation, Egypt's LGBTQ+ community and its allies are under vicious attack. For more information and to show your support for the community, visit Amnesty International's Egypt page.