Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The statute books not always a reliable guide

One of the interesting things in the story out of Egypt today about a bunch of men being acquitted after being arrested on national TV for being at a bathhouse is this:
Five of them - the owner of the bathhouse and four staff members - were tried for facilitating "parties of debauchery, orgies among male homosexuals" in exchange for money. The 21 others were charged with practising debauchery and "indecent public acts".

It is not illegal to be homosexual or engage in homosexual acts in Egypt. But the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) says the charge of "debauchery" is often used to crack down on homosexual activity in the country.

The charge is more often used in cases involving prostitution, but Egyptian legislation - specifically Law 10 of 1961, On the Combat of Prostitution - mentions "prostitution" and "debauchery" together.

The Collins English Dictionary defines the world as "an instance of extreme dissipation"; other descriptions relate to "sensual pleasures".

Homosexuality remains a social and religious taboo within Egypt. However, the country is not the only place where, while not illegal, it is punished or discouraged using other laws.
Goes to show that it's not always a simple matter of seeing what's on the books to know how laws are used in a country.

I also saw at the end of the LA Times report on the matter:
Other often-ostracized groups have been targeted as well; on Saturday, an Egyptian court sentenced a 21-year-old man to three years in prison after he declared on Facebook that he was an atheist.
 And this in a country where the President just got kudos for calling on Islam to reform itself.  He's got his work cut out.

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