CAIRO — A prominent human rights group Thursday accused Egyptian police of arbitrarily arresting and torturing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and urged authorities to end prosecutions for adult, consensual sexual relations.
Security forces routinely make random arrests of people based on their gender expression, unlawfully search their phones and entrap them through social media sites and dating applications, said a statement released by New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Detainees face torture and sexual violence, including repeated beatings, water-hosing and forced anal and vaginal examinations, the rights group said. It also accused security forces of extracting forced confessions from LGBT detainees, denying them access to legal counsel and medical care, and inciting fellow inmates to abuse them.
"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, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Attempts to reach a government spokesman for comment were not immediately successful.
Homosexuality is highly taboo in Egypt among both majority Muslims and the Christian minority, but is not explicitly prohibited by law. In practice, however, the state regularly seeks to prosecute individuals under alternative charges including "immorality" and "debauchery," which are normally reserved for prostitution.
Since 2017, Egyptian authorities launched a crackdown on the LGBT community following a concert in Cairo by a pro-LGBT Lebanese band. At the event, some of the audience raised the rainbow flag, a gesture that authorities saw as an attempt to promote homosexuality.
HRW said it interviewed 15 people, including LGBT people who were prosecuted between 2017 and 2020, two lawyers and two local LGBT activists.
The rights group statement quoted one of the victims as saying that he was picked up by police in downtown Cairo in 2019 and after a "senseless" beating by police was forced to stand for three days in a dark and unventilated room with tied hands and feet.
Another woman quoted in the HRW statement said she underwent three forced vaginal and anal examinations during her detention, a procedure that authorities call "virginity tests."
"Morality and public order are hijacked, not preserved, when security forces arbitrarily arrest people and subject them to life-altering abuse in detention," Younes said. "Egypt's partners should halt support to its abusive security forces until the country takes effective steps to end this cycle of abuse, so that LGBT people can live freely in their country."