Egypt Introduces Bill Criminalizing Homosexuality Amid Anti-LGBT Crackdown

"Repression will not turn gay people straight—it will only perpetuate fear and abuse."

After a rainbow flag was spotted at a concert in Cairo last month, the government launched an anti-gay witch hunt that has seen dozens of men arrested. Some have been picked up off the streets, others have been entrapped via dating apps.

More than 20 have received jail sentences ranging from six months to six years. They're often convicted of debauchery or other vague offenses, as homosexuality is not technically against the law in Egypt.

But that could change: MP Riyad Abdel Sattar has authored a measure that would sentence homosexuals and their "supporters" to lengthy jail terms.


CAIRO, EGYPT: Egyptians dressed in white with their faces covered, charged with engaging in homosexual activities and scorning Islam, enter a Cairo court under the protection of security men 14 November 2001. One of the 52 men was sentenced to five years in prison and several to three years at the end of their trial. The men were arrested in May following a party on a Nile riverboat. AFP PHOTO/Marwan NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

His draft, filed with the speaker yesterday, reads, "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."

Repeat offenders would face five years behind bars. LGBT rights activists, journalists covering gay events—really anyone "calling for the acceptance of homosexuality"—would face three years in prison. Even if they were not gay themselves. HRC Global Director Ty Cobb called the bill "one of the most dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposals we have seen in recent memory."

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power in 2014, several hundred people have been imprisoned for consensual same-sex conduct. The worry is the most recent rash of arrests could just be the beginning.

"Repression will not turn gay people straight," said Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson. "it will only perpetuate fear and abuse."

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