Last edited: February 14, 2005


House Members Unpersuaded By Egyptís Response to Criticism Over Persecution of Gays

News Release, May 20, 2002
from Barney Frank
Congressman, 4th District, Massachusetts

2252 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-5931

For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel McGlinchey 202.225.5931 (Frank)
Matt Gobush 202.225.6735 (Lantos)

Today, a bipartisan coalition of federal lawmakers released a strongly worded letter that was sent to the Egyptian embassy in Washington, DC concerning Egyptís continued mistreatment of gay men.

The letter, signed by 40 members of the House of Representatives, is the third congressional letter to the Egyptian government since last summer when that country began a crackdown on homosexual activity. In August, Egyptian authorities arrested 52 men in a gay club in Cairo, Egypt, and since then, a number of men have been arrested in Egypt for allegedly engaging in homosexual activity, including two university students who were arrested after a security agent posing as a gay man over the Internet arranged a meeting with them.

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), one of the lead organizers of the letter who also introduced a resolution in the House this year condemning all violations of internationally recognized human rights norms based on real or perceived sexual orientation, said, "If Egypt claims to be part of the international community of democratic nations that embraces universal human rights and freedom of statement, it must stop its persecution of gay men and release those who have been imprisoned or stand self-condemned."

The Egyptian ambassador Nabil Fahmy, in a recent response to a congressional letter sent in March, denied that his country was unfairly targeting gay men. Stating there is no law explicitly forbidding homosexuality in Egypt, the ambassador explained the men in Cairo "were convicted essentially under a law which penalizes promiscuity/prostitution" and "that there is no distinction or discrimination based on a personís sexual orientation."

Human rights groups claim that the charge of "habitual practice of debauchery" is an offense commonly used to target and prosecute gay men. They also point to the fact that many of the men who have been arrested were subjected to forensic examinations in order to determine whether they had engaged in anal intercourse. The results of these examinations were presented at hearings before the Supreme State Security Prosecution.

In their latest letter to the ambassador, the House members say they "question whether the law under which so many gay men have been imprisoned is applied equally with respect to homosexual and heterosexual individuals. And, if your answer is that this law against the "habitual practice of debauchery" is not applied disproportionately against gay people, can you tell us whether agents of the police have arrested and prosecuted heterosexual individuals?"

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), another lead sponsor of the letter, said he doesnít believe the ambassadorís claims. "Egyptian authorities are applying this law virtually exclusively against adult gay men who are doing no harm to others, and this shows that a clear and active anti-gay policy exists in Egypt."

 

A copy of the most recent congressional letter is attached.

# # # #

May 7, 2002

Ambassador Nabil Fahmy
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008

Dear Ambassador Fahmy:

We received your response to the congressional letter dated March 20, 2002 regarding the mistreatment of gays in Egypt. While we were pleased to read in your letter the assertion that the law in Egypt does not discriminate against gay people, we are very skeptical that this is true in practice. Given the many reports we have received of gay people in Egypt being arrested and tried in security courts, we question whether law 10/1961 under which so many gay men have been imprisoned is applied equally with respect to homosexual and heterosexual individuals. And, if your answer is that this law against the "habitual practice of debauchery" is not applied disproportionately against gay people, can you tell us whether agents of the police have arrested and prosecuted heterosexual individuals?

We recognize Egyptís desire to be viewed as a responsible member of the international community. In his recent speech in Washington, President Mubarak stated that "the world community must embrace the values of tolerance, coexistence, and respect for each other . . ." And in your correspondence to us, you have made references to several international human rights conventions to which you say Egypt is committed. But we must tell you that your selective invocation of certain human rights conventions when it suits your purposes, and your ignoring of others when they donít, is unpersuasive. It is also confusing. In fact, your reference in your most recent letter to the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery seems particularly irrelevant to us because what we are talking about here is a form of oppression against innocent, consenting adults who have done no harm to anyone else.

We remain strongly opposed to your governmentís intolerance toward gay men in contravention of international human rights standards and urge you to move beyond rhetorical assurances and take concrete action to end this discriminatory policy.

REP. BARNEY FRANK
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
REP. TOM LANTOS
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS
REP. NANCY PELOSI
REP. NITA M. LOWEY
REP. CONSTANCE A. MORELLA
REP. CYNTHIA A. MCKINNEY
REP. MARK FOLEY
REP. TAMMY BALDWIN
REP. MARTIN T. MEEHAN
REP. GEORGE MILLER
REP. GARY L. ACKERMAN
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT
REP. MAURICE D. HINCHEY
REP. JAMES P. MCGOVERN
REP. BARBARA LEE
REP. PETER A. DEFAZIO
REP. EDOLPHUS TOWNS
REP. CAROLYN B. MALONEY
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY
REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE
REP. WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT
REP. ROBERT WEXLER
REP. MICHAEL R. MCNULTY
REP. ELIOT L. ENGEL
REP. LYNN C. WOOLSEY
REP. JERROLD NADLER
REP. JOHN B. LARSON
REP. FRANK PALLONE, JR.
REP. LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD
REP. RUSH D. HOLT
REP. EARL F. HILLIARD
REP. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY
REP. LUIS V. GUITERREZ
REP. JOHN W. OLVER
REP. MIKE M. HONDA
REP. LYNN N. RIVERS
REP. PETER DEUTSCH
REP. ANNA G. ESHOO


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