People who pay attention to international news might have heard the name Shyma in recent times. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, Shyma is a not particularly well-known Egyptian pop singer, who received a fine as well as a prison sentence because of a music video. Something that has resulted in a fair amount of outrage from an international press that tends to be rather uninterested in such matters.
What Happened to Shyma?
In short, Shyma appeared in a music video that featured some rather suggestive licking of a banana. As a result, there was a backlash from the more conservative elements of Egyptian society, which led to her being arrested on November 18. Said process culminated in an Egyptian court convicting her of “inciting debauchery” under Egypt’s morality laws. As a result, both Shyma and the person who directed the music video have been sentenced to a stay of two years in prison, which is on top of a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds for each of them. Both will be able to appeal the verdict in an Egyptian court, but it remains to be seen what will come of that option.
As for Shyma, she has issued an apology for the music video via her Facebook page. In it, she stated that she was not expecting such a strong backlash. With that said, it should be noted that Shyma is not the first person to be punished by an Egyptian court by using Egypt’s morality laws, with a previous example being a female dancer who was convicted of the same charge in 2015 for her performance in another music video.
What Are Egypt’s Morality Laws?
Some western publications have written about Egypt’s morality laws, which are described as being rather wide-ranging in nature. This is not the result of haphazard lawmaking but rather an intentional choice on the part of Egypt’s government. Simply put, the wide-ranging nature of the morality laws makes it possible to use them as a bludgeon against a wide range of people, which in turn, makes the morality laws useful for Egypt’s government under a wide range of circumstances.
As for why Egypt’s government would want such a tool, those that have written about the issue have offered a number of potential explanations. For example, the morality laws are a useful method to go after people who have crossed Egypt’s government in other ways, with an excellent example being its critics. Furthermore, the morality laws are a useful way for Egypt’s government, which is a secular regime, to rally the more conservative elements of Egyptian society behind it. In fact, some people have argued that secular regimes will often go further than their religious counterparts to go after those seen as having violated morality laws because they have a greater need to establish their credibility in this regard compared to their religious counterparts.
Summed up, Shyma is not the first woman to fall victim to Egypt’s morality laws. Considering current circumstances, it seems probable that she will not be the last.