Eight men accused of attending a marriage-like ceremony on the Nile were sentenced to three years in prison as part of a series of measures against the Egyptian gay community.
A court ruled that the defendants had compromised public morals after appearing on a video of an exchange of vows between two men.
Described online as Egypt’s “first gay marriage,” the scene featured the two of them hugging on a small boat, exchanging rings and partying with friends – footage that outraged conservative Egypt and sparked a media reaction when it broke out in September YouTube appeared.
The verdict came after the eight men underwent anal tests, which state doctors said the men were not gay. It also followed claims by one of the attendees that the footage showed a birthday party rather than a wedding. The man, who was interviewed anonymously on a TV talk show prior to his arrest, said, “I’m not the groom, I’m just a normal guy who has a birthday party with one of our friends – nothing more, nothing less … I knew that he wanted a ring, so I brought it as a birthday present. “
The case follows a surge in raids on private properties and street arrests against the Egyptian gay community over the past year. In the past few weeks, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Egyptians (LGBT) have scaled back their use of dating apps like Grindr because they fear the police are using them to lock in gay men.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but it is a social taboo and allegedly gay men have often been arrested for immorality. In the case known as the Queen Boat, 52 men were arrested in 2001 for their perceived sexuality.
Activists speculate that the recent surge in government pressure on the Egyptian gay community is related to the government’s desire to showcase its socially conservative credentials after members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group ousted by the current Egyptian regime last summer, released the footage used to call for the overthrow has led to the destruction of Egyptian values.
“The coup plotters have taken over the West’s agenda,” tweeted former Brotherhood MP Azza al-Garf, who said Egypt has become a “place of sin.” An anonymous police officer then told Buzzfeed that the arrests had been ordered from above.
In response to recent developments, LGBT activists in Egypt have issued guidelines advising what to do if targeted.