LGBT rights in Egypt

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LGBT rights in Egypt Egypt
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 Heba Kotb estimates that 10% to 12% of the Egyptian population is homosexual.[1] According to Pew Research Center 95% Egyptians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society.[2]

Criminal laws[edit]

Mubarak regime[edit]

During the Mubarak government, Egypt was influenced by the civil law system. As the criminal code was silent on the subject of private, adult, non-commercial and consensual homosexual acts, and cross-dressing, they were not de jure illegal in Egypt. Beginning in 2000, under Hosni Mubarak, certain laws were used to impose what amounts to a de facto ban on homosexuality and cross-dressing.

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.[4]

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.".[5]

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.[6]

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, pleaded 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.[7][8] Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to prison with hard labor, while the others were acquitted.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

The Egyptian government's response to the international criticism was either to deny that they were persecuting LGBT people[13] or to defend their policies by stating that homosexuality is a moral perversion.[14]

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.[15]

Post Mubarak[edit]

LGBT-rights issues were not among the reforms demanded by any of the protesters or other dissidents during the 2011 revolution.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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[edit]

Until 2001, the Egyptian government refused to recognize that homosexuality was the sexual identity for some of its residents,[19] 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, as well as the legal system. Traditional Islamic morality views homosexuality and transgenderism as forbidden and detestable acts. The only organization exists in Egypt to attempt to improve the legal or social position of LGBT people in Egypt is Bedayaa Organization for LGBTQI in the Nile Valley Area Egypt & Sudan.[citation needed] Most LGBT Egyptians and foreigners feel the need to live in the closet for fear of the legal sanctions and social hostility.

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.[20]

LGBT rights[edit]

Discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity has never be expressly addressed in any Egyptian Constitution or in enacted legislation. No politician or political organization in Egypt has expressed public support for LGBT-rights. Instead, politicians have called for the execution of homosexuals[citation needed] or for them to be sent to prisons and mental institutions to be "converted" to traditional gender norms and heterosexuality.

Egyptian human rights organizations have avoided publicly supporting LGBT-rights issues for fear of a backlash from the government, the Islamacist political opposition or from the prejudices of socially conservative citizens.[21]

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). Finally the fist Egyptian gay movie to be published on public movie theater is "Family Secrets"


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.[22]

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.[23]

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. Family secrets is the first Egyptian and Arab Gay movie targeting the life of an 18 years old gay living in Cairo and its the first movie in the history of films to completely talk about this issue and get deep in it.



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[24] 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.[25]

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[edit]


  1. ^ "Gay Egyptians come out of the closet." Ynetnews. 10 June 2013. 10 June 2013.
  2. ^ "The Global Divide on Homosexuality." pewglobal. 4 June 2013. 4 June 2013.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ German MPs Want Egypt to End Trial of Homosexuals
  8. ^ French President Worried About Fate Of Egyptian Gays
  9. ^ Egypt Sentences 23 of 52 Suspected Gays
  10. ^ New Page 1
  11. ^ News & Politics
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ Egypt Spars With US Congressmen Over Gay Arrests
  14. ^ Egypt Officially Brands Homosexuality ‘Perverted’
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Bassem Youssef, 'Egyptian Jon Stewart,' Appears on 'Daily Show' (Video)" The Hollywood Reporter. April 25 2013. July 5 2013.
  19. ^ BBC NEWS | Programmes | Crossing Continents |Egypt crackdown on homosexuals, Thursday 7 March 2002 at 1100 GMT on BBC Radio Four
  20. ^ "Gay Egyptians come out of the closet." Ynetnews. 10 June 2013. 10 June 2013.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Gay Marriage Results in Prosecution
  25. ^ Egypt’s Fearful Gays Shy from HIV Testing

External links[edit]