Egypt Spars With US Congressmen Over Gay Arrests
May 21, 2002
By Paul Johnson
Washington—The Egyptian government is refuting
claims by a group of US congressmen that it is persecuting gays.
In March, 40 members of the US congress sent a letter to the Egyptian
embassy calling on the government to end the continued mistreatment of gay
men. It was the second letter of protest the group sent to the Embassy.
Since the summer of 2001 Egypt has rounded up dozens of gay men, tried them
for the "habitual practice of debauchery" with more than than half
of those accused sentenced to prison with hard labour.
Human Rights activists say the "debauchery" charge is 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
Two months after the congressional letter was sent, Egyptian Ambassador
Nabil Fahmy, has replied.
Fahmy denied that his country was unfairly targeting gay men. Stating there
is no law explicitly forbidding homosexuality in Egypt, the ambassador said
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 person’s sexual orientation."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the signatories to the letter, said he
doesn’t believe the ambassador’s 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
The congressmen, led by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), replied Monday to Fahmy,
saying "your selective invocation of certain human rights conventions
when it suits your purposes, and your ignoring of others when they don’t, is
The letter went on to say: "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
Earlier this year, Lantos introduced a resolution in the House all
violations of internationally recognized human rights norms based on real or
perceived sexual orientation.
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