An Egyptian court sentenced four men to prison for committing homosexual acts. The Egyptian press reports the men were accused of holding "deviant" sex parties and dressing as women.
The ruling handed down by the Egyptian court received little media attention in a country where homosexuality is a serious taboo.
Three of the men were given eight years in prison, while a fourth received a three-year sentence, according to Egypt's Ahram Online. The names of the men were not published, ostensibly to avoid embarrassing their families.
Human rights groups, both in and outside of Egypt, condemned the verdict. Homosexuality is treated as a crime in more than 30 countries on the African continent.
A well-know Egyptian sociologist, who asked that his name not be used, tells VOA that “homosexuality is not frequently prosecuted in Egypt” and the police are “usually busy with more serious issues.” “But,” he said, “when a case is brought to their attention, they are often forced to take it to court.”
He says homosexuality has been talked about in Egyptian cinema, including in the well-known film The Yacoubian Building, but that there is still an enormous stigma attached to being gay.
"[Being gay] is even worse than being atheist," he said. "I mean, we have atheists who come out, but you cannot find homosexuals who come out and say 'Hey, I am homosexual,' and that shows you the degree of difference in dealing with this issue.”
Hazem Abou Ismail is a prominent Islamist who was excluded from the presidential election race in 2012 after being dogged by rumors that he is gay. Abou Ismail denied it but such allegations can ruin the careers of politicians and prominent actors, alike.
“There is a great deal of hypocrisy in Egyptian society about homosexuality and it is often difficult to even speak about it without arousing indignation,” said a professor of politics at Cairo university, who also asked that her name not be used.
The court rulings against the four men are subject to appeal and could eventually be reduced or thrown out by another court. The ruling in a 2001 court case against 52 men charged with “debauchery” was thrown out on appeal, although the men were eventually retried and re-sentenced.