What’s happening in Egypt?
While being gay isn’t technically illegal in Egypt, the country does have several provisions that criminalise any behaviour or the expression of any idea that is deemed to be immoral, scandalous, or offensive to the teachings of a recognised religious leader. Egypt is a socially conservative country, and these public morality and public order-based laws are being used against LGBTQ people as well as anyone who supports more liberal attitudes.
An example of that in action is the case of Mohamed al-Ghiety, as reported by the BBC.
Mohamed al-Ghiety is a prominent television presenter in Egypt. He’s a presenter on the LTC TV channel, which is privately owned.
In August 2018, al-Ghiety interviewed a man who identified as gay. The man talked about his life as a sex worker. During the interview, the man’s identity was hidden.
Egypt’s top media body, the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, immediately took the channel off air for two weeks, citing “professional violations”.
A prosecution was brought against Mohamed al-Ghiety. The prosecution accused the TV host of revealing there to be financial gains of “practising homosexuality.”
The prosecution was successful, and al-Ghiety was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour. The court also imposed a fine of 3,000 Egyptian pounds. The punishment was for promoting homosexuality. Mohamed al-Ghiety has appealed the decision.
The wider context
Part of the context for this prosecution of Mohamed al-Ghiety is that Egypt’s Supreme Council for Media Regulation had already implemented a ban on homosexuals appearing on any media outlet. The ban came into effect after a rainbow flag was raised at a concert in Cairo in 2017. Persecution of LGBTQ people also appears to have increased since that time, although persecution and harassment of the LGBTQ community has been an ongoing issue in recent decades.
The queer history of Ancient Egypt
One of the most prominent same-sex relationships of Ancient Egypt is that of Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep.
Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep lived and served under pharaoh Niuserre during the 5th Dynasty (c. 2494–2345 BC). Both men had families of their own with children and wives, but when Nyankh-Khnum and Khnum-hotep died, they were buried together in the same tomb. In the tomb, several paintings depict both men embracing each other and touching their faces nose-on-nose – in Ancient Egypt, this gesture represented a kiss.
There is little evidence surviving that gives any great insight into LGBTQ life in Ancient Egypt. Any sexually orientated stories recorded in documents or literature are never explicit but use abstract references. No record has been found that indicates any negative views towards homosexuality, or any punishments for same-sex encounters.