Egyptian crackdown on LGBT community sparks outrage

Lewis Mizen

MSDs Gay Straight Alliance has condemned the events in Egypt. Photo courtesy of Kevin Trejos
MSD’s Gay Straight Alliance painted a wall on the 400 building showing the need for unity. Photo courtesy of Kevin Trejos

A massive blow was delivered to the LGBT community over the weekend when the Egyptian government arrested 22 people on the charges “debauchery” and “promoting sexual deviancy”: mere pretenses engaging in homosexual activity.

The crackdown began after a Mashrou’ Leila concert whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, an openly gay advocate for equal rights. At some point in the duration of the concert a rainbow flag was raised, immediately causing the arrests of two men. Of the 33 people who have been arrested since Sept. 23 on similar charges, 16 of them went to trial on Sunday to face charges, with a verdict expected on Oct. 29.

Despite homosexuality not being explicitly outlawed in the country, the conservative nature of its society leads to the frequent arrests of those suspected of homosexuality. With the usual charges being levied against them consisting of debauchery, immorality or blasphemy, most of the men arrested are subjected to anal examinations to determine whether they have had engaged in same-sex relations. Many activist groups, including Amnesty International, have voiced their opposition to these examinations.

“Forced anal examinations are abhorrent and amount to torture,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director. “The Egyptian authorities have an appalling track record of using invasive physical tests which amount to torture against detainees in their custody. All plans to carry out such tests on these men must be stopped immediately.”

With such an outcry against the anti-gay actions taken by the Egyptian government, it is interesting to compare the situation to the United States stance on gays, with same-sex marriage now legal in all 50 states, following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said. “It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

The United States embrace of equal rights to the LGBT community can be found at Douglas, embodied by the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. Headed by president Emma Gonzalez, the GSA works to spread equality, fairness and understanding.

“We’re only a local, school based organization, but I think it’s important to promote awareness at all levels to make a better future for everyone,” Gonzalez said. “What’s happened in Egypt sucks and I want everyone to know that we stand with our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed there.”

One of their latest projects, a mural on the upstairs wall of the 400 building, symbolizes the efforts of people from all sexualities to work hand-in-hand to create a more loving and accepting future. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, like the actions taken by the Egyptian government, opposes everything the GSA stands for, and appalling does not scratch the surface for some of the MSD student body.

“It’s despicable; no one should have to fear that their rights will be infringed upon because of who they love,”  senior Leonor Munoz said. “I hope the gay rights movement will gain traction in Egypt, but I realize that they’re not that accepting there and I don’t want anyone to get hurt. A gay flag should not be illegal. Being gay should not be illegal.”

Despite the actions taken by Egypt and their police force being in direct violation of international law against torture, as established by the UN Committee Against Torture, their continued ignorance of this fact poses difficulties to the establishment of human rights in the region and the global acceptance of same-sex relationships.