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When Sexuality is Politics: The Struggle for LGBT+ Rights in Egypt Open Access

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As countries throughout the world struggle to legalize same-sex marriage, in Egypt, suspected homosexuals are regularly arrested, tortured, and disenfranchised for their sexuality. However, existing research on Egypt and homosexuality has shown that the violently anti-LGBT+ Egyptian narrative is relatively recent. Evidence of homo-romantic relationships appear throughout Egyptian history, and at times they have acted as a pillar of social stability. In the modern era, the lack of clear international consensus on what sexual minority rights should look like has created a very dangerous atmosphere for the LGBT+ community throughout the world. Unfortunately, the United Nations and the international community are essentially toothless in their efforts to protect sexual minorities in domestic situations. This is because "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" are not listed as protected categories under the UN Declaration of Human Rights, so the international community is legally bound to respect the sovereignty of the Egyptian government and not intervene in their domestic affairs. The lack of UN influence and the erasure of regional LGBT+ history, especially in regard to the history of homosexual and bisexual women, leaves a gap in the historical narrative. To further strengthen LGBT+ identity politics in the Middle East, the norm of LGBT+ rights within international politics must be institutionalized. I have conducted interviews and surveyed Egyptian activists in order to understand the current oppressive narratives promoted by the Egyptian government regarding sexual minorities, while additionally gathering observational data in two separate trips to Egypt in 2015 and 2019. My goal was to explore what role outside influences, such as colonialism, military conquests, and modern media, have had on the perception of sexual minorities in Egypt, to better understand how contemporary LGBT+ activists can use the historical process of identity politics to counteract modern day systematic and social prejudice.

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