LGBT rights in Kuwait

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LGBT rights in Kuwait
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal
Up to 10 years
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons not allowed to change legal gender
Cross-dressing illegal

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons in Kuwait face many legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT Kuwaitis. Kuwait is a Muslim nation and thus both homosexuality and cross-dressing are treated as crimes and signs of immorality. However, as is the case with other "moderate" Muslim nations in the Middle East, there are few recorded cases of the criminal laws being enforced.

Kuwaiti law does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits. No anti-discrimination legislation exists to prohibit public or private sector discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Laws against homosexuality

Several Articles in the national penal code are used to prohibit homosexuality between consenting adults in private and to restrict the public discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • The National Constitution stipulates that Islam will be the State religion, the primary source of the law and that the government is charged with protecting the family and promoting moral values to the nation's youth [1].
  • Article 193 of the Penal Code punishes homosexuality between men, over the age of 21, with up to seven years imprisonment[1]. If the conduct involves persons under the age of 21, then imprisonment can be for a maximum of ten years.[2]
  • Article 198 prohibits "public indecency" and "imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex" with fines and or imprisonment [Human Rights Watch January 17, 2008].
  • Article 204 prohibits the public encouragement of "immoral acts" and the publication and distribution of any writing or images that are immoral.
  • Private, adult and consensual sexual acts between women do not appear to be expressly illegal. Although adultery and fornication are both illegal [2].

In 1996, the Kuwaiti police arrested seven Filipino hairdressers, working in Kuwait, and jailed them for homosexuality and prostitution. They were all soon deported with the Kuwaiti government informing the Philippine Embassy that it would not tolerate the existence of gay foreign workers or their sexual conduct[3].

In February 2005 police charged a group of 28 alleged homosexuals with creating a public disturbance after they met outside a fast-food restaurant. On October 27, police raided a party where homosexuals were allegedly celebrating a wedding. [3].

In September 2008, police raided a private apartment residence and charged three adult Filipinos for committing sodomy [4].

Laws against free speech

First enacted in 1961, the national law has several regulations that are used against LGBT themes.

  • Article 26 bans the, "publication that violates public morality or persons' dignity or personal freedom...".[4]
  • Article 37 gives the Office of Printing and Publications the power to ban the importation of publications that will harm "public morals" or the, "the sanctity of religions".[5]

In 1997, Dr Alia Shoaib was dismissed from her professorial chair in Kuwait University for suggesting that homosexuality existed in the emirate. Her comments were printed in the al-Hadaf magazine, which faced charges for obscenity. The Kuwati Information Minister said the professor's comments had "defamed the University" and that, "We know that there are gays in Kuwait, they are hidden and should remain so".[6] That same year the famous Kuwaiti novlist, Leila Othman, faced obscenity charges for her novel titled The Departure which included stories featuring same-sex relationships.

In 2000, the Kuwaiti appeals court overturned the lowers court's criminal convictions against these two women, but upheld the heavy fines.[7]

Newspapers are not expressly prohibited from dealing with LGBT topics and there has been more discussion of homosexuality and cross-dressing on-line.

Gender identity/expression

As of 2007, cross-dressing in public is expressly illegal.

In 2003, Kuwait's Civil Bench of the Court of First Instance dismissed the case of a 25-year-old woman who wanted to change her name on official documents after undergoing a sex-change operation in Thailand [8].

LGBT rights movement in Kuwait

In 2007, the Al Arabiya news service reported that a group of Kuwaitis had applied for a permit to form a new association that would stand up for the rights of LGBT Kuwaitis. All such interest groups or clubs have to be approved by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which has not formally replied [5].

HIV/AIDS issues

In 1988, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Public Health published a report on HIV infections in Kuwait[9], especially the person's nationality, marital status and sexual orientation. In 2004 a United Nations report on HIV in Kuwait found that about six percent of known transmission cases were the result of unprotected sexual contact between men.[10]

In 1992, the Kuwaiti national assembly outlawed the knowing transmission of HIV to another person. Foreign residents must prove that they do not have HIV or AIDS to enter or remain in Kuwait.[11]

In 2007, a seminar titled "AIDS- The Epidemic of the Century", was held by the Kuwait Medical Society (KMS). Officially the number of Kuwaiti infected with HIV is small and thus the pandemic is often seen as a problem caused by so-called "foreign" problems; i.e. homosexuality.[12]

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