An Egyptian court has sentenced four men convicted of the “crime” of gay sex to a total of twenty eight years in prison, three of them receiving an eight year term and one a three year term.
To my knowledge eight years is the longest ever stretch of prison time handed down for consensual sexual acts in Egypt’s modern history and surpasses any of the sentences handed down in the notorious Queen Boat case of 2001 which brought Egypt international condemnation from across the globe including strong criticism from the then French president Jacques Chirac as well as from singer and songwriter Elton John.
The accused, like the female protesters dragged off to the Egyptian Museum by the military police in March 2011 and like the Queen boat detainees arrested under the Mubarak regime in May 2001, were forced to undergo humiliating medical tests. In this case to “prove” (using long discredited medical techniques) that they were “habitual gays”.
The news in depressing. In the last ten years much of the world has progressed to legally accepting gay lifestyles as having a complete equality to a heterosexual one. But Egypt, despite recently toppling the Islamist Morsi regime, seems to have taken the opposite direction.
And the headline punishment says nothing about the real consequences for these men. Let’s not forget that they will be lucky to survive their sentences. If the treatment of gay men previously arrested is anything to go by then they will receive the most degrading and brutal abuse conceivable at the hands of prison guards and other prisoners. Can you imagine how they will manage inside ?
Their cell mates will be drug dealers, hardened criminals, religious zealots (either Muslim or Christian) with whom they will also have to share the crowded sweltering prison vans. When the guards say “Here are prisoners who are the cause of all Egypt’s problems – khawalaat, perverts, mitnakeen” will the prison authorities care in the slightest what happens to them ?
We cannot allow their lives to be abused and lost so cheaply.
Egypt should remember that many of the tourists who visit Egypt – and on whom one in seven of the country’s jobs depends – are either lesbian, gay or have close friends who are or they will be at least sympathetic to the idea of treating the lgbt community with respect and dignity. Many will surely think twice about continuing to holiday in a country which imposes such draconian and inhumane punishments for what men chose to do in the privacy of their own homes.
GayEgypt.com recently reluctantly decided to deactivate its’ message forums in light of the recent spate of arrests in Marg and Nasr City and the consequent risk to online posters from Egypt’s infamous internet police.
This is not a promising start to Egypt’s new regime. These sentences are symptomatic of a weak and cowardly government and judiciary that lacks any sense of moral direction or principle. Instead the new “secular” government is nothing more than a front to facilitate Sisi’s procession to the presidency. The thinking behind these prosecutions being presumably that Sisi needs to prove that in the new Egypt people need not be afraid of having “Western freedoms” forced on them.