By: Nora Noralla & Hassan Ahmed
The Legal and Media Obsravtory of Sex Work Crimes in Egypt
Based on Media Monitoring Between January 2021 and December 2022
The criminalization of sex work in Egypt is relatively new for modern Egypt, as it was not legally criminalized until 1951. On the contrary, the legal situation before 1951 was more focused on regulating the sex industry through several laws, such as the “Prostitute Houses Regulations of 1905” and the “Regulations for the Inspection Office of Prostitutes, issued in 1885”. Therefore, criminalization represents a new chapter in the many chapters of sex work in Egypt. Workers in the sex work industry continued to practice their profession despite the criminalization and pressure from the state and society, which stigmatizes sex workers in Egypt with shame.
The term “vice cases” is used to describe any case related to sex work and other issues, including various charges such as “habitual prostitution or debauchery” or “promoting pornography,” and so on. It is difficult to determine the number of individuals arrested annually, as the Ministry of Interior rarely publishes reports on the types and numbers of arrests it carries out. In 2014, officials from the Ministry of Interior made a rare statement about the number of vice cases from January to July, totaling 1,853. The officials also stated that there were about 45 thousand female sex workers registered in their records and 8,000 males, some of whom were sex workers and others third parties such as pimps. No reports or statements on this case have been published since that year. Therefore, the Cairo 52 Legal Research Center offers this report as a preliminary attempt to document the number of people arrested annually under vice cases.
This report also serves as the launch of a legal observatory to monitor cases related to sex work that is reported in the media, as monitoring them at the national level is challenging due to the multitude of laws and regulations that prosecute sex workers, starting with the Egyptian Penal Code’s provisions or what is known in the media as “obscene acts in public” up to the recently issued Law No. 175 of 2018 on combating cybercrimes, which targets social media platforms, especially Facebook and TikTok. This law not only persecutes sex work but also serves as a backdoor to oppress women and gender and sexual minorities. Not all those arrested under morality laws are sex workers; the Egyptian state expands the use of these laws to restrict the right to privacy and control what it considers moral and immoral.
Cairo 52 Institue believes sex work is a fundamental human right to the use of one’s body freely without interference from the state or society. It is inherently connected to bodily autonomy and integrity issues, and it should be classified as a profession that any individual can practise consensually. Cairo 52 Institue distinguished between voluntary sex work based on an individual’s desire and forced sex work. Cairo 52 Institue encourages the state to reconsider Egypt’s morality laws to focus on protecting sex workers from forced labor and punishing those who force anyone into sex work rather than the worker who willingly works in this profession.
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