JOHANNESBURG – A bill before the Egyptian parliament will make homosexuality an offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison, Israeli daily Haaretz has reported.
Members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community are being arrested, media support of this group is prohibited, and rights groups are afraid to protect them.
“Ahmed Alaa sits in an Egyptian detention centre, awaiting trial. Last week his remand was extended by 15 days. Alaa was among those arrested in September for waving a rainbow flag at a concert by the Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila,” said Haaretz.
“Over the years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested, tortured, and detained men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct,” said Graeme Reid, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch.
Currently waving the rainbow, or LGBT, flag is not against the law but if the new bill is passed by the Egyptian authorities it could be.
The bill is currently before the parliament and is unlikely to be rejected by a majority there. In the interim, Egypt’s state prosecutor’s office is making use of other laws, including “the spreading of wantonness” and “harming public security”, to harass gays.
To date it has been political opponents of President Fatteh El Sisi’s regime, and human rights activists, who have generally been targeted by the country’s security forces on the grounds of posing a security threat.
Makram Mohammed Ahmed, a top Egyptian journalist, and chairman of the body that regulates the country’s media, has labelled homosexuality a “disgraceful disease”, arguing that it had the potential to harm public health.
Haaretz reported that while making his announcement, Ahmed was flanked by clerics and officials from the Al Azhar Mosque, who declared that homosexuality constitutes a serious violation of holy law and goes against what God intended when he created mankind.
In the capital Cairo there are bars and clubs that are frequented by and known as havens for members of the LGBT community.
In 2001, police raided the Queen Boat a floating nightclub known as a gay-friendly hangout arresting several dozen people, who were attending a party on board, including a few foreigners.
In 2014, a video was posted on YouTube showing the wedding of two men in Egypt leading to the arrest of the people who posted the video and one member of the video.
This has forced LGBT activists to go underground and limit their presence on social media.
African News Agency