LGBT rights in Bahrain

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LGBT rights in Bahrain
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption -
Military service -
Discrimination protections -

Bahrain is known as one of the more tolerant Muslim nations in the Middle East, and has recently undergone a period of political liberalization but homosexual behaviour remains illegal in Bahrain.[1][2][3]

Criminal Code

Sodomy was illegal in Bahrain between 1956 and 1976. As part of the British Empire, Bahrain was given the Indian Penal Code in 1956. Article 377 of this code made "unnatural sexual behaviour" a crime punishable with imprisonment not to exceed ten years, or deportation for twenty years or a fine.[4] Recent reports have suggested that since 1976, sodomy has been legal when it involved consenting adults twenty-one years or older [2]. Yet, there are some reports of anti-gay criminal laws being used.

In practice, prosecution is rare,[3] but some sources have reported that the government deports foreigners who engage in homosexual activity. For example, it has been reported that in 2002 the government deported 2,000 gay Filipino workers for alleged homosexual activity and prostitution[3].

Public cross-dressing would appear to be illegal, at least if a man dresses up in female attire. There is at least one report of a man being arrested for cross-dressing in public [4] under the broad crime of "immorality". [5].

In response to questions from parliament about lesbianism in schools, the Assistant Under-Secretary for Educational Services Khalid Al Alawi has said that the Education Ministry is not responsible for addressing issues of sexuality, and instead it is the responsibility of parents to take care of their children's emotional development: "Any emotional problems should be dealt with by their parents - it is not up to the school to take actions on this problem. The public shouldn't make a big deal out of this problem because it does not exist." Speaking about the government's attitude, Mr Al Alawi said that "As for the question that has been raised in the Press about the so-called problem of lesbianism, as a ministry we cannot talk about a widespread phenomenon and we can't call them lesbians. The problems that the students are facing are put into the category of educational problems, not immoral acts. If a student's appearance is contrary to custom and the schools values, then the only thing we can say is that those violating the school's rules should be disciplined."[6]

In 2008, a harsher crackdown on homosexuality was called for members of the military, law enforcement and the Al Menbar parliamentary bloc. The Government is being asked to conduct an official study into the problem of homosexuality and how to best combat it. The initial response from the government was as follows;

  • The Interior Minster says that "suspected" (effeminate) homosexuals are banned from entering Bahrain by checks at the airport [7].
  • The Interior Minister says that many homosexuals choose a profession in hairdressing salons and beauty and massage spas, which the Minster says are often inspected [8].

Freedom of Speech

The subject of homosexuality in Bahrain is rarely discussed in the newspapers, although it is not a forbidden topic. Since the 1990s newspapers have mentioned the issue particularly when talking about events happening outside of Bahrain in the field of entertainment or criminal arrests or the AIDS-HIV pandemic. It has only been within the last few years that the Bahraini press has begun to address sexual orientation, gender identity, and AIDS as they apply to the island.

In 2002 the Arabic language newspaper, Al-Meethaq, created a national controversy when it became the first newspaper to discuss homosexuality in Bahrain.[5]

On 21 December 2005, the Gulf Daily News' British columnist Les Horton wrote a commentary, 'Gay weddings are no threat to family values'. While it is an English language newspaper, its readership includes many Arabic speaking Bahrainis.

The Gulf Daily News has continued to write articles that touch upon these taboo subjects. For example, it has published brief articles on Bahrani female homosexuality in girls' schools and women who claim to have become lesbians based on abusive relationships with men.

LGBT Community

The LGBT community is largely invisible. However, among western or European workers in the kingdom, there do exist certain bars that seem to have a gay male clientele.

In 2006 the Gulf Daily News published a story about a Bahraini person assigned female at birth who, having undergone a sex change operation, is going to court in a bid to have his new status as a man recognised in law. The lawyer, Fowzia Mohammed Janahi, had won a landmark case in 2005 where a Bahraini person assigned female at birth, aged 30, had the operation and was legally recognised as a man [9]. As of 2007, the legal case was still going through the Bahraini legal system [10].

See also


External links


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