(WB) Lawmakers in Egypt on Wednesday introduced a bill that would criminalize the country’s LGBT community.
A translated copy of the measure the Washington Blade obtained states “any two individuals or more, whether male or female, who conduct perverted sexual relations between themselves in any public or private place will each be arrested and sentenced to a period of no less than one year and no more than three years.”
Those who are found guilty of violating the proposed law more than once would face up to five years in prison.
The bill states those who “incite same-sex relations, either by inciting, facilitating, hosting or calling for (them), even if they don’t perform the act itself, will be sentenced to prison for a period of no less than one year and no more than three years, as well as shutting down the venue.” Those who are found guilty of repeatedly violating this provision of the proposed law would face up to five years in prison.
The proposal also states “audio and video publicity and advertising for LGBTQ parties or gatherings are strictly prohibited on visual, audio and social medias.”
“In case of such violation, the host and promoter will face up to three years in prison,” it reads. “In case of holding a party or a gathering, the organizers and all participants will be sentenced to three years of prison, even if they were normal individuals. If the host was an entity, their legal representative will be put in prison, as well as shutting down both the entity and venue.”
The measure would also “strictly” prohibit anyone from carrying “any symbol or sign of the LGBTQ community, as well as prohibiting the production, selling, marketing or promotion of such products.” Those who violate this provision would face between 1-3 years in prison.
@Egaypt, an Egyptian LGBT rights advocate in D.C. who uses his Twitter account to identify himself, told the Blade on Thursday it remains unclear when lawmakers will debate the measure.
“It could be voted on within a week or months,” said @Egaypt. “But either way its terrifying as it sets a new trend that could (and will) spread to other countries in the region that are socially homophobic, but have no anti-LGBTQ laws.”
@Egaypt lawmakers in Jordan, Iraq and Libya could consider similar measures if the Egyptian bill becomes law.
Dozens of LGBT Egyptians arrested in recent months
Egyptian lawmakers have introduced the bill against the backdrop of an ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in their country.
Authorities on Sept. 22 arrested at least seven people who waived a rainbow flag during a rock concert in Cairo. Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb on Thursday noted in a press release that more than 60 LGBT Egyptians have been taken into custody over the last two months.
“Now, a group of Egyptian lawmakers have reportedly proposed disturbing new legislation that punishes same-sex relationships with imprisonment,” he added. “This bill is one of the most dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposals we have seen in recent memory — going so far as to punish anyone waving a rainbow flag with no less than one year in prison. It would require the public outing of anyone convicted under the proposed law. It could also be used to imprison allies who speak in support of LGBTQ people or hosting an LGBTQ event.”
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert earlier this month told the Blade in a statement the U.S. is “concerned by reports of detentions and arrests of LGBTI persons in Egypt.”
“We urge countries to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments,” she said. “The United States will continue to engage on issues of universal human rights and democracy.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this year withheld almost $100 million in foreign aid to Egypt and conditioned nearly $200 million more on whether the country’s human rights record improves.
Shawn Gaylord of Human Rights First on Thursday urged Tillerson to “condemn” the bill and call upon Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi “to reject it and any other restriction on human rights in Egypt.”
“In the 21st century, criminalization laws should be repealed, not introduced,” said Gaylord. 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.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Blade on Friday that she is “not aware of the specifics” of the measure.
“I’d have to look into that before I can make a response, but we’ll certainly be happy to check into it,” she said.
— Michael K. Lavers with contribution from Chris Johnson, Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.