Eight men in Egypt face a three-year jail sentence for broadcasting a video of a same-sex wedding and, as a result, “shaming God.”
The men were charged for “spreading indecent images” and “violating public decency” after filming two men kissing, exchanging rings and celebrating with cheering friends on a Nile riverboat, suggesting a same-sex wedding. They were initially detained in September after Egypt’s chief prosecutor called the video “shameful to God” and “offensive to public morals.”
Egypt is a primarily Muslim country with a minority of Christians, and while homosexuality isn’t outlawed, it is still a “social taboo.” According to Al Jazeera:
The arrests were the latest in a string of highly publicized police raids on suspected gay people in the country, prompting a US-based social networking application used by gays to urge caution to users in Egypt.
Homosexuality is not specifically banned under Egyptian law, so the men, arrested in September, were convicted of broadcasting images that “violated public decency.”
Because homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, the charges in this case and others like it are tied heavily to the idea of respecting Islam and the “public morals” of that religion, hence repeated mentions of concepts like decency and morality in the verdicts.
In the past, homosexuals have been jailed on charges ranging from “scorning religion” to “sexual practices contrary to Islam,” the country’s dominant religion.
In April, a court sentenced four men to up to eight years in prison for practicing homosexuality.
Prosecutors had accused them of holding “deviant parties” and dressing in women’s clothes. Three were sentenced to eight years and the fourth to three years in prison.
The Associated Press adds that the Egyptian government has been targeting not only LGBT people, but atheists, liberals, pro-democracy activists, street protesters, and anyone else who appears to counter its conservative Muslim ideals:
Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said in September that Egyptian authorities had repeatedly arrested and tortured men believed to have engaged in consensual gay conduct.
In 2001, Egypt made news around the world when 52 men were arrested in a police raid on a Nile riverboat restaurant and accused of taking part in a sex party. After a highly publicized trial in an emergency state security court, 23 of the men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one to five years on charges of immoral behavior and contempt of religion.
Egypt’s crackdown on gays and atheists is taking place as the country of nearly 90 million people appears to be steadily moving to the right, as the army and security forces battle Islamic militants waging a campaign of violence in Sinai.
The eight defendants denied the charges — as well they should have — and their families are rightly outraged at the verdict. And it’s pretty clear that government officials aren’t the only ones perpetuating these toxic ideas, which is just as disappointing.
One defense lawyer, Emad Sobhi, insisted that the court had caved in to popular pressure in the country.
“My clients are innocent of practicing homosexuality,” he told the AFP news agency. “The court succumbed to public opinion.”
(Image via Shutterstock)