Egypt: Parliament Discusses New Bills Criminalizing Atheism and Homosexuality

(Jan. 26, 2018) On December 24, 2017, the Committee on Religion of Egypt’s Council of Representatives discussed a bill that would make atheism a crime punishable under the Egyptian Penal Code. (Egyptian Parliament Discusses Plans to Criminalise Atheism, EGYPTIAN STREETS (Dec. 24, 2017).) Previously on November 9, 2017, an Egyptian lawmaker proposed a bill criminalizing homosexuality that gained the support of more than 60 members of Parliament. (Egyptian Lawmaker to Propose Anti-gay Bill as Part of Crackdown, Reuters, Nov. 9, 2017; Bethan McKernan, Egypt LGBT Crackdown: 16 Men Jailed for Three Years on ‘Debauchery’ Charges, INDEPENDENT (Nov. 29, 2018).)

Bill to Criminalize Homosexuality and Government Crackdown on LGBT Community

The November bill debated among members of the Egyptian Parliament to criminalize homosexuality in Egypt came after a concert that took place in September 2017 where the rainbow gay pride flag was raised by some individuals attending the concert. (Egypt LGBT Crackdown: 16 Men Jailed for Three Years on ‘Debauchery’ Chargessupra.)

In recent months, the Egyptian authorities have targeted individual members of the Egyptian LGBT community for arrest. In October alone, more than 65 individuals, mostly gay men, were arrested, and at least 20 of them have received prison sentences ranging from six months to six years. (Why Is the Egyptian Government So Afraid of a Rainbow Flag?, NY TIMES (Oct. 26, 2017); see also Constance Johnson, United Nations: Rights Office Concerned About Arrests of LGBT IndividualsGLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Oct. 31, 2017).) In January 2018, Egyptian police arrested 10 people of the LGBT community in Alexandria, north of Cairo, after neighbors reported to the authorities that they seemed “different.” The recent arrests bring the number of people detained by the authorities since September 2017 for homosexuality to eighty-five. According to news reports, in 2016, 300 people were arrested for the same reason. (Kashmira Gander, Egypt Anti-gay Raids: LGBT Rights Activists Fear Widespread Brutal Crackdown, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES (Jan. 24, 2018).) Even though homosexuality is not a crime under the Penal Code, the Egyptian authorities have charged individuals accused of being gay under provisions of a 60-year-old debauchery law used to combat prostitution. (Id.Law No. 10 of 1961, on the Combating of Prostitution, issued 8 Mar. 1961, Refworld website.) Read more via LOC