Oil-rich Middle East state Kuwait’s controversial proposal to start a medical test to screen transgender visitors and ban their entry in the Arabian Gulf region has been rejected by rights organizations as well as a fellow Arab state, which called the plan crazy and a violation of rights.
Ahmed Al Sa'ati, an MP from Bahain, one of the smallest states in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), dismissed the Kuwaiti proposal, calling it “crazy” and “illogical”.
‘This is a clear violation of human rights and we reject this proposal by the Kuwaiti official as it restricts the freedom of individuals,’ said Al Sa’ati, an independent member of the Council of Representatives, the lower house of Bahrain’s National Assembly, the country’s main legislative body.
Al Sa’ati said Islam taught that there should be no interference in people’s personal affairs.
‘I reject any crazy medical tests to detect gays as it can gradually lead to clear discrimination where people from Asia and Europe will be targeted,’ the Manama-based Gulf Daily News newspaper reported the law maker as saying.
‘We cannot isolate ourselves from the international community and need to understand there are different shades of opinion.’
Though Bahrain, like many other Islamic countries, regards homosexuality and cross-dressing as illegal and punishable with imprisonment and there have been reports of police arresting gays, Al Sa’ati said homosexuality was not a ‘major problem’ in his state.
The MP’s comments came in reaction to Kuwaiti Health Ministry public health director Yousuf Mindkar saying that the routine medical checks that expatriates undergo when they take up residence should be expanded to determine whether they are transgenders.
Mindkar also suggested that such expats be banned from entering Kuwait or any of the five other GCC member states -- Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
While Al Sa’ati was the first Arab official to react to the proposal that has created ripples worldwide, protests have started pouring in from human rights organizations.
Amnesty International called the proposal outrageous.
Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther said it would further stigmatize people who already suffer extremely high levels of discrimination and abuse on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘It is an affront to the fundamental human right to privacy and underscores the continuing persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,’ Luther said.
‘Instead of continuing to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, the authorities in Kuwait should work to ensure that people are not harassed and abused because of who they are and should repeal laws that criminalize sexual acts between consenting adults.’
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Rights group based in the UAE said the proposed gay determination test was “shameful and morally repugnant”.
‘Sadly it reflects the widely held belief that homosexuality is a Western invention, when in reality, we are a part of every society, and country or culture – whether they acknowledge it or not,’ said the group’s chairman, named only as Abdulla.
Gay equality organization Stonewall’s media manager Richard Lane said at a time when many Gulf states have gone to great lengths to market themselves as open for international business, their leaders should ‘think long and hard about putting forward measures to restrict freedom of movement and further prohibit the best talent from doing business in the region simply because of their sexual orientation’.