Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Gay Men Jailed in Egypt: Everyone's Shame

Four men were sentenced to eight years in jail for engaging in "deviant" homosexual acts. These
men were reported by none other than their neighbours. Egyptian newspapers said that the neighbours called the Police because many "feminine-looking" men were frequenting an apartment rented by one of them.

 The Egyptian police searched the apartment and found make-up and female "garments", which apparently is evidence enough for them to arrest the guys and was proof enough for the court later to sentence them for eight years in jail!

There's also another interesting line in the article describing the arrest. The reporter stated that the neighbours "almost finished them off", but the police officers took them swiftly away.

Now, I have been living for the past fifteen years in Egypt and there is one thing I'm sure of about the Egyptian police: they are not a friendly, responsive bunch.

I called the Police on my neighbours on two separate occasions in the past fifteen years. The first was because my next door neighbours were holding a wedding in their own backyard and they were firing celebratory shots in the air scaring my week-old baby to tears every time. The police officer I talked to hung up on me.

The second time was to report a domestic dispute-- the screams of a woman being brutally beaten and the loud roaring insults of an abusive husband. This time the police responder asked if I heard any gunshots and when I said no, he also hung up!

So why oh why does the police--and the courts--care about people's sexual behavior behind closed doors, on private property? We can throw in religion as the easy answer, but I believe the rot runs much deeper. All in all, people in Egypt are not as religious as they'd like to pretend they are. They let a LOT of things go--just so long as it does not threaten their patriarchal society.

Patriarchy-friendly Causes: Bring'em On
Activists in my corner of the world are so predictable, they rarely surprise me anymore. The pick and choose their causes on a whim.

There are two sets of causes: those that threaten patriarchy and those that can be made patriarchy-friendly. For instance, when it comes to women's rights, sexual harassment is a patriarchy-friendly cause. After all, it has to do with "honor." It's a cause that readily gathers supporters and mobilizes activists. Whereas something like Female Gential Mutilation finds much more apathy and down-right resistance--being labeled as "not important now" or "not a priority."

And here allow me to describe a new Syndrome, authentically Egyptian, and proudly adopted by many post-revolutionary revolutionists: the Not-A-Priority-Now Syndrome. Its symptoms are easy to spot and the underlying aetiology is clear: causes that threaten societal hierarchy and patriarchal norms.

Some of the regular victims of this syndrome are: Bah'is who want their religion acknowledged in official papers, Christians who want churches built, Nubian minorities who are seeking long-ignored right, women who want laws to protect them from margination, atheists who are arrested and thrown in jail for their beliefs or lack thereof.

But of course, the ultimate sufferers are the guys with alternative lifestyles--the homosexuals, the gays, the black sheep of  a beaten-down male-dominated society. No one shall stand for them. No one will utter even a cry of dismay. Because, well, they are "feminine" males. They are guys who are being "done to" instead of being the ones doing the "doing."

This is why our revolution is failing us, because the revolution of the mind is far from being completed. When rights, for ALL, are considered worth fighting for, then we can talk about living the dream we've been fantasizing about since the ouster of Mubarak in 2011.

One of my favorite all time quotes about the Egyptian revolution is a quote by the visionary Mona El-Tahawy. She says that our political revolutions will fail, unless we have social and sexual revolutions that push them into the home. I wholeheartedly agree and I think that the sooner Egyptian activists realize this, the sooner they can wash away the shame of their silence and their turning away from the very ideals they promote.
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