EGYPT: A recent investigation has brought to light the strategy that the Egyptian police are incorporating to hunt and arrest LGBTQ+ people. The police are using dating apps like Grindr and WhosHere to meet LGBTQ+ people online and then arrest them, consequently making it exceptionally hard for community members to come out to the public as who they are.
An unauthorized search on their phones is conducted, and the information is used to ensure their custody and charges.
Due to the prevalent stigma and taboo associated with LGBTQ+ people in Egypt, there is an absence of proper laws against homosexuality, as a result of which LGBTQ+ people are being criminalized under “debauchery,” a sex work law that makes users of this app, irrespective of their sexuality, culpable and might lead to prosecution.
Police arrest transcripts reveal how cops pose online to hunt for LGBTQ+ people looking for dates. An undercover police officer, in one text message on the social networking and dating app, WhoseHere, coerced the person belonging to the community to meet up in person, resulting in his arrest later.
Dating apps in a country like Egypt are not secure as there are flaws exclusive to these apps, giving hackers an agency for gathering information about the personal lives of their users, their locations, etc. Criminal gangs also use these apps to seek out LGBTQ+ people to mock and humiliate them.
Foreigners in the country using these apps are also potential targets for the police. A foreigner in conversation with an undercover police informant on the popular gay dating app Grindr exposed himself, after which he was arrested, taken into custody, and accused of “debauchery.”
Some transcripts also denote how people looking for new friendships and seeking dates have been pressured into agreeing to sex for money, which would give the police an upper hand to take this to the higher legal authorities.
The Egyptian government made public statements about monitoring “gay gatherings” online. Ahmed Taher, the former assistant to the interior minister, said, “We recruited police in the virtual world to unearth the masses of group sex parties and homosexual gatherings.”
MP Alicia Kearns, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee for the UK, reported that LGBTQ+ tourists should be cognizant of the dangers in places like Egypt, where “their sexuality might be weaponized against them.”
She also added, “I would strongly urge the Egyptian government to stop any actions that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.”