CAIRO: Human Rights Watch demanded the immediate release of seven men who were detained on Sept. 7 on allegations of holding a gay wedding and “inciting debauchery” in a Wednesday statement.
Attorney General Hisham Barakat ordered the detained men to be physically examined to determine if they had engaged in anal sex after a video went viral on social media showing nine men celebrating on a felucca, and an apparent couple exchanging rings and kissing.
“Over the years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested, tortured and detained men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct. These arrests represent another assault on fundamental human rights and reflect the Egyptian government’s growing disdain for the rule of law,” said Graeme Reid, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights program at Human Rights Watch, in the statement.
After the video went viral on social media, many posters in traditionally conservative Egypt were angry, and demanded the men’s arrests even if they violated human rights.
Homosexual relations in Egypt are considered a severe violation of values, ethics and religion, despite no specific law that criminalizes them. The broad “indecency” charge however is open to interpretation and often cited in the arrest of alleged homosexuals.
One of the men charged in the case supposedly spoke with television host Tamer Amin on the Rotana Masriya channel after being released on bail, and denied he was homosexual. He also said he fears for his life after appearing in the video, and that he is afraid to go out on the street.
HRW added that after a physical examination of the seven detained men, spokesman Hisham Abdel Hamid of the Health Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority said on Sept. 8 the ministry determined the men were not in fact homosexual.
But HRW said such examinations involve an anal examination, similar to “virginity tests” used against women by authorities arresting protesters and political dissidents in Tahrir Square in 2011. HRW decried the methodology of both intrusive inspections in its statement.
“‘Findings’ from such examinations have been used in court, though experts have dismissed them as medically and scientifically useless in determining whether consensual anal sex has taken place,” HRW said.
“Egyptian authorities should immediately end the practice of arbitrarily arresting and torturing adults who are privately engaged in consensual sexual relations,” Reid added in the statement. “These latest arrests are an ominous indication that President [Abdel Fatah] al-Sisi’s government will show no greater respect for the rights of vulnerable groups than its predecessors.”