Michelangelo Signorile talks with activist and scholar Rasha Moumneh about the protests in Egypt and what they mean for LGBT rights throughout the country.
Moumneh, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who focuses on LGBT and women’s rights, says that while there have been crackdowns in Egypt — most notably in 2001, when 52 men were arrested on board a floating gay nightclub called the Queen Boat — Egypt’s laws against homosexuality are vague.
“Egypt does not have an antisodomy law,” she says. “What they do have is a sort of generalized debauchery law. The problem with that law is that the interpretation is less to individual judges — it’s an extremely elastic law. So you have all sorts of quote-unquote moral crimes being prosecuted under that law.”
She says in Egypt, she doesn’t think there’s a concerted effort to target gay people — what happens to LGBT people in Egypt is indicative of what’s happening all over the region.
“These crackdowns usually happen ... when the government wants to flex its moral muscle. When they want to show they’re still in control, that they’re still the savior of Egyptian society.”
She says it’s very difficult to tell how these protests will affect LGBT rights in the country moving forward. She said there is a growing attitude among young people to “open up more space toward personal freedoms.”