In its report: “The Trap: Punishing Sexual Difference in Egypt” EIPR calls for immediate end to the entrapment and persecution of gay and trans individuals and those perceived as such
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released a report today titled “The Trap: Punishing Sexual Difference in Egypt.” The report documents and analyses the increasingly frequent incidents, over the last four years, in which police have specifically targeted persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity does not conform to socially-sanctioned norms, specifically gay people or men who have sex with men, or those who are perceived as such, as well as transgender people. The campaign reached a peak last month with the arrest of more than 75 people after a rainbow flag—known as symbol of diversity and the acceptance of different sexual orientations and gender identities—was waved at a public concert in one of the malls in Cairo. The report shows that this latest incident, which drew the attention of several international rights organizations and the global media, is simply the latest episode in the systematic campaign documented by the report. The report calls for an immediate end to this entrapment, which constitutes a flagrant infringement of a number constitutional rights, first and foremost the right to privacy, the right to freedom from degrading and inhumane treatment, and the right to a fair trial.
The report observes that the average number of persons arrested and referred to trial in these cases has increased five-fold since the last quarter of 2013, in comparison with previous years. In the three and a half year period ending in March 2017, a total of 232 people had been arrested, or about 66 each year, compared to an average of 14 people a year in the period from 2000 to 2013.
The report traces the ordeals of persons caught in the “dragnet”, from the moment of their entrapment until they end up in prison, attempting to analyse patterns in the security assault on gay and gender non-conforming people. The report also analyses the role of actors in the criminal justice system, from the police and Public Prosecution to primary courts and courts of appeal, highlighting the problematic legal issues and demonstrating how the campaign violates numerous well-established constitutional and legal principles.
The report relies on legal analysis of 25 individual cases, supplementing this with testimonies from persons arrested in such cases and interviews with their families and several lawyers who specialize in such cases. The report also analyses media coverage, not only of cases specifically involving security attacks on gay and transgender people, but also coverage of crimes of extortion and theft involving LGBTQ people, and what can often be considered hate crimes against these individuals.
Appendices to the report include data about the cases, examples from defence pleadings, and the text of Law 10/1961 criminalizing prostitution, whose vague provisions are used against gender non-conforming people to accuse them of engaging in habitual practice of debauchery or publishing material inciting it.
“The cases analysed by the report demonstrate that the Interior Ministry’s General Directorate for the Protection of Morals employs primarily three worrying strategies or practices,” said Gasser Abdel-Razek, the Executive Director of the EIPR. “The first and most prevalent is entrapping individuals using fake accounts on dating sites and apps for gay or transgender people, especially transwomen. Second, the Interior Ministry deporting of foreign gay nationals, or foreigners thought to be gay, even when charges of habitual practice of debauchery are not upheld against them. Third, the creation of major sex scandals that receive exceptional media coverage.”
The report criticizes the intransigence of the Public Prosecution and the preconceived judgements that some prosecutors have about the defendants. The most common charge levelled at defendants was “habitual practice of debauchery”, found in 23 cases covered by the report, followed by publishing material that incites debauchery on the internet (14 cases) and operating a residence/premise/house for debauchery or inciting it (8 cases). The report’s legal analysis and the description of the practices of the prosecution, courts, and Forensic Medicine Authority demonstrate the vagueness and ambiguity of the legal definitions found in provisions used to charge the defendants. It also shows how the authorities resort to unscientific methods, banned in international law, to examine defendants in a degrading way and how defendants are solicited and induced by material remuneration, which in itself, constitutes the crime of incitement under the law.
“The way that most news websites cover arrests of gay and trans people creates a state of moral panic in society,” said Dalia Abd El-Hameed, the Gender Program Officer at the EIPR. “Gay and trans people are demonized through misrepresentations, portrayed as if they are subhuman, while news reports carry sensationalist, exaggerated headlines such as ‘Arrested: biggest ring of sexual deviants’. The media also uses morally charged, demeanig terms to describe arrested individuals (calling them ‘sexual deviants’, ‘the third sex’ and linking them with ‘drugs’), thus portraying them as threats to society’s values, and as people who use violence and represent a danger to other citizens, especially if they are living with HIV.”
The report concludes that the expansive use of Law 10/1961 to persecute and punish adults for consensual sexual practices simply because such practices are socially unacceptable is a clear violation of these individuals’ right to privacy and right to freely make decisions concerning their sexuality. The report closes with a set of recommendations, including:
- Police must stop entrapping individuals through dating websites and apps by inducing them through financial remunerations.
- Policemen allegedly involved in beating, insulting, and threatening sexual violence against persons arrested in such cases must be held accountable.
- Print and broadcast media must not be permitted to film or photograph arrested persons, violate their privacy, and publish information and details about their personal lives.
- The possession of make-up, women’s clothing, condoms, and other items whose possession does not constitute a crime must not be treated as a crime or evidence for a crime.
- Forced anal examinations must be prohibited.
- Lawyers must be given sufficient time to review arrest and interrogation reports.