Human Rights Watch lambasted Egypt in a report Thursday for routinely arresting, abusing and torturing LGBT people, including subjecting them to forced anal examinations.
“Egyptian authorities seem to be competing for the worst record on rights violations against LGBT people in the region, while the international silence is appalling,” said Rasha Younes, HRW’s LGBT rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa.
HRW said it interviewed 15 people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people prosecuted since 2017 under “vague and discriminatory ‘debauchery’ and ‘prostitution’ laws”.
“All of those interviewed said police verbally harassed and subjected them to physical abuse ranging from slapping to being water-hosed and tied up for days, and nine said police officers incited other detainees to abuse them,” the New York-based rights watchdog said.
Eight were victims of sexual violence, it added, while five were forced to undergo anal examinations.
One 28-year-old activist said she bled for three days after police officers subjected her to forced vaginal and anal examinations as part of so-called “virginity” tests, according to the report.
“’Virginity’ and anal tests constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture and sexual assault under international human rights law,” HRW said.
“They violate medical ethics, are internationally discredited, and lack scientific validity to ‘prove’ same-sex conduct or ‘virginity’.”
The report said that all those interviewed were held in pre-trial detention “for prolonged periods, in one case up to four months, often without access to legal counsel”, while eight said they were forced to sign confessions.
HRW called on Egypt’s international partners to “halt support to its abusive security forces until the country takes effective steps to end this cycle of abuse”.
Rights groups say Egyptian authorities have stepped up arrests and prosecutions against LGBT people since a concert in 2017 by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, at which activists waved a rainbow flag. The band’s lead singer is openly gay.
“Egypt has unabashedly continued to target and abuse LGBT people simply for who they are,” Younes said.
While homosexuality is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, discrimination against the LGBT community in the deeply conservative and religious society is widespread.