A court in Algeria, where same-sex relations are illegal, has sentenced more than 40 people to prison for attending a “gay wedding”.
On September 3, a court in the North African country sent two men immediately to prison and sentenced 42 other people to suspended prison sentences for being at a “gay wedding”, according to Human Rights Watch.
Authorities raided a private home in July, where 44 young people were gathered, after neighbours complained. Of the 35 men and nine women, most were students.
Police in Algeria decided the event must have been a “gay wedding” because the men had a “gay appearance” and there were decorations, flowers and sweets present.
All 44 people in attendance were convicted, on charges of “same-sex relations”, “public indecency” and “subjecting others to harm by breaking COVID-19-related quarantine measures”.
The two men immediately imprisoned were sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, and all others where given one-year suspended sentences.
Rasha Younes, LGBT rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement: “Algerian authorities’ attack on personal freedoms is nothing new, but arresting dozens of students based on their perceived sexual orientation is a flagrant infringement on their basic rights.
“They should immediately release from prison the two men who would be free today were it not for Algeria’s regressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
Operating under a mixture of French and Islamic law, Algeria criminalises sex between women and between men, and also prohibits “cross-dressing”.
There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships or trans people, and no protection against discrimination for the LGBT+ community. The legal registration of organisations thought to be inconsistent with “public morals” is also banned.
Vigilante violence, torture and executions targeting the LGBT+ community are not uncommon.
Article 338 of the country’s penal code states: “Anyone guilty of a homosexual act is punishable with imprisonment of between two months and two years, and with a fine of 500 to 2000 Algerian Dinars. If one of the participants is below 18 years old, the punishment for the older person can be raised to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 dinars.”
On top of this, Article 333 states: “When the outrage to public decency has consisted of an act against nature with an individual of the same sex, the penalty is imprisonment of between six months and three years, and a fine of between 1,000 and 10,000 Algerian Dinars.”
Younes added: “Instead of policing its citizens’ private lives, the Algerian government should carry out reforms, including decriminalizing same-sex conduct.”