With six transgender women arrested only in the last two weeks and five still in prison awaiting trial, Kuwait continues with 'morality' campaigns that also target LGBT people
A transgender woman was arrested by Kuwaiti police, activists fear she will be charged and tried for ‘imitating the opposite sex’.
According to Kuwaiti activists there are at least eleven transgender people being held in prison awaiting trial, six of them arrested in the last two weeks.
A police patrol in the neighbourhood of Salmiya, Kuwait City, stopped a car driven by a woman, upon interviewing her, the two police inspectors became ‘suspicious’ as her ‘rough voice contradicted her feminine appearance’, reported the daily Al-Rai on Sunday (28 October).
When questioned she claimed she forgot her identity card at home, but after the police applied ‘pressure’ officers found out that in fact the ‘driver was a man’.
The car was then extensively searched police found women’s underwear and bras.
The case was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Kuwait.
Two weeks ago (15 October) five transgender women were also arrested and detained by Kuwait police in two separate incidents.
Three were arrested for holding ‘transsexual only parties’, of which two were Kuwaiti citizens and one Lebanese.
In another incident a police patrol stopped a car which was with a transgender women and a minor (also transgender).
A transgender activist in Kuwait told Gay Star News: ‘The situation here is getting worse by the day.
‘To my knowledge there are now at least 11 transgender people detained in prison facing the same charges and waiting a trial, the other five are from previous arrests.’
‘The authorities are using the article prohibiting “imitating the opposite sexâ€ to violate our freedom of expression, and as a political weapon. So transgender people have to be in disguise all the time, we can’t even leave home or walk among the society, we have to remain hidden for our safety and we’re treated as criminals.
‘Our country is regressing both legally and socially, sexual orientation and gender identity is increasingly talked about by politicians and the media as an “epidemicâ€ that the country must get rid of.’
On 10 December 2007, the Kuwaiti parliament passed a bill proposed by Islamic MPs that amended article 198 of penal code so that anyone ‘imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex’ could be jailed for up to a year or fined up to 1,000 dinars ($3,500 â‚¬2,800).
This law is causing substantial persecution and misery to transgender people in Kuwait which was slammed in a Human Rights Watch report published on 15 January this year criticizing arrests, torture and abuse of transgender people in the country.
Kuwait has been experiencing political turmoil, when earlier this month the Emir disbanded the parliament which was dominated by the Islamic Popular Action Bloc, as well as ordering the arrest of some its leaders.
The Emir announced new elections will take place on 1 December under a new electoral rules which are widely criticized and protested against by the Islamists opposition.
In the fight between the government controlled by the royal al-Sabah family and the Islamists opposition, morality and often LGBT people are used as scapegoats; the issue of sexuality is used as a weapon by the opposition to portray the ruling family and its liberal allies as corrupt and morally defunct and dependent on an immoral West.
A recent example of the latter strategy was witnessed yesterday when an Islamic politician criticized a report by Amnesty International that called on Kuwait to respect freedom of expression and association. He reacted by saying he found ‘shame in supporting arguments by statement of an organization that finds same-sex marriages to be a human right.’
The authorities, in an attempt to portray themselves as morally just and defend against the criticism of the opposition have been actively pursuing ‘morality’ campaigns throughout this year which also target lesbian, gay and transgender people.