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Home / Press Release / Tillerson Urged to Condemn Proposed Egyptian Law Criminalizing Homosexuality
October 26, 2017

Tillerson Urged to Condemn Proposed Egyptian Law Criminalizing Homosexuality

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today condemned proposed Egyptian legislation that would criminalize same-sex relations and public support of LGBT people. The bill, introduced yesterday, would mandate imprisonment for individuals convicted of participating in such relations, for promoting events tailored to LGBT people, or for carrying any symbol or sign of the LGBT community, such as the rainbow flag. Human Rights First calls on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to speak out publicly against the proposed legislation.

“In the 21st century, criminalization laws should be repealed, not introduced. This bill is nothing more than an attempt to further scapegoat a vulnerable community, and to further restrict basic rights and freedoms of all Egyptians,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “Secretary Tillerson needs to condemn this legislation, and call on President Sisi to reject it and any other restriction on human rights in Egypt.”

Egypt’s parliament is likely to pass the legislation, which will then head to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to be signed in to law.

In the midst of an economic crisis and a growing wave of domestic terrorism, the crackdown on the LGBT community appears to have been manufactured in part to distract from President Sisi’s policy failures.

Last month in Cairo, during a concert by the Lebanese rock group Mashrou’ Leila, a small group of fans raised a gay pride flag, causing a firestorm of homophobic rhetoric in Egyptian media and an intensified crackdown on the country’s LGBT community. Over 65 people have been detained and dozens have been charged with crimes on charges such as “spreading debauchery” or “promoting sexual deviancy”—two charges already available to Egyptian authorities to prosecute activities specified in the new draft legislation.

In August, the Trump Administration denied and withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Egypt. The decision was meant in part to persuade the Egyptian government to end its crackdown on independent civil society organizations. The current campaign against the LGBT community is an escalation of the same policies the Trump Administration has already signaled opposition to.

“With a long history of military and financial support to Egypt, the United States has both the access and the influence to convince Sisi to not sign this legislation,” added Gaylord. “Secretary Tillerson needs to make clear to Egyptian authorities that in order to release current holds on military funding, and to avoid possible further holds in the future, the government needs to be lifting restrictions on basic rights and freedoms, not adding new ones.”

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.