A Kuwaiti Constitutional Court has thrown out a law used to jail transgender people and is now being hailed as a victory for LGBTQ rights in the middle-east.
Article 198 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code criminalised “imitation of the opposite sex” and breaking the law, which was passed in 2007 by Kuwait’s National Assembly, was punishable with a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine.
In the court’s ruling, it was stated that Article 198 actually violated Article 30 of the constitution which guarantees personal freedom.
A recent victim of Article 198 was transgender woman Maha al-Mutairi, 40, who in October 2021 was found guilty of both “misusing phone communication” and “imitating the opposite sex” online under article 70 of the telecommunication law and article 198 of the penal code.
Al-Mutairi, who alleges she was raped by police officers in 2019, was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 1,000 Kuwaiti dinars (USD 3,315). She was released pending an appeal late last year.
In 2017, 19-year-old Polish Instagram star King Luxy was arrested in Kuwait for looking “too feminine”. He was beaten and spent two weeks in custody before he was released.
Maalouf called for the release of “all those unjustly imprisoned under Article 198” and urged the authorities to “investigate all allegations of torture by security forces and install an independent mechanism for monitoring police behaviour.”
Amnesty International described the court ruling as “a welcome development and a major breakthrough for transgender rights in the region.”
Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: “Article 198 was deeply discriminatory, overly vague and never should have been accepted into law in the first place.
“The Kuwaiti authorities must now ensure that Article 198 is repealed in its entirety. They must also immediately halt arbitrary arrests of transgender people and drop all charges and convictions brought against them under this transphobic law.”
Although this is a win, homosexuality remains illegal in Kuwait with a term of imprisonment of up to seven years.
Last Updated on Feb 23, 2022