Eight Men Sentenced to Prison in Egypt on “Debauchery”’ Conviction
An Egyptian court sentenced eight men to three years imprisonment for attending a gay wedding ceremony on the Nile. The event came to light when YouTube videos from the boat went viral. Saturday morning the men were taken to prison following a trial and an investigation that subjected them to abusive and scientifically faulty examinations to determine whether the men had engaged in anal sex.
The sentences also carry a three-year probationary period after their prison sentences are served. Unlike probation in many countries, the Egyptian model requires the men to spend each night in a police station, from dusk until dawn.
Hesham Abdel Hamed, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice's forensic department, insisted that the men had not "practiced homosexuality," and argued that the case was fabricated. The men were initially investigated for sharing the footage and thus violating laws on "public decency," then "undermining public morals," before ultimately being convicted of "debauchery."
This case is indicative of a broader trend of homophobic regimes in the Middle East using social media platforms and crowd sourced content to target LGBT communities. Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Grindr have all recently been used to entrap gay men in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt.
"It is disappointing to see these platforms become tools for persecution in many of these countries. They once served as powerful implements for mobilization for human rights, as we saw in the Arab Spring. For prosecutors and the police to now use them to target the already vulnerable LGBT community is more than troubling," said Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First.
It is more important than ever for the human rights of LGBT people to remain at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. To that end, the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT people would provide a key figure to engage with LGBT activists and combat persecution globally.