Kuwaiti media organisations report that almost 150 people have been arrested this weekend for “immoral” behaviour, including four gay men and two transgender women.
Most reports have alleged that these men and women were engaged in “prostitution,” though others have labelled them as “fun seekers.”
Emirates 24/7 reported that most of the arrested were expatriates, from which ‘14 Arab women would be immediately deported while several gays and tomboys have been locked up pending trial.’
The news organisation further reported that the campaign involved hundreds of security agents covering several areas of Kuwait city. It further quoted an unnamed police “source” stating that ‘the campaigns will intensify in the next period to end such illegal practices inside suspected apartments and houses’.
Arab Times stated that the campaign against the alleged “fun seekers” was organised by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), under the supervision of Assistant Undersecretary for Security Affairs Major General Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khalifa.
A transgender Kuwaiti activist who wishes to remain unnamed stated ‘they call it “prostitution places” but in fact these were private parties in homes and apartments.’ She stressed: ‘it’s just drinking and partying maybe a bit more but not prostitution!!’
She explained that ever since the Islamists have won a majority in the Kuwaiti Parliament last February such campaigns have intensified. She reported that increasing number of check points have been put in place, targeting a wide range of behaviour and people, including transgender people, gays, lesbians, people ‘drinking alcohol, couples, parties, and any appropriate kind of clothing’.
However, LGBT people are signalled out in particular, she said. She reported that on Sunday a transgender woman was caught, beaten and the arrested at a checkpoint. She ‘was wearing loose men clothes and covering her hair going back to her place from friends. She faced three check points, the first 2 was easy to get through because they were busy with traffic.’ In the third check point she was caught and beaten after ‘she refused to get into the police car. She’s now in detention and we don’t know what is going to happen for her.’
Her account is also corroborated by reviewing of press reports of recent arrests against so called “vice”, all ordered by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior; the previous weekend (of the 12th of May), a total of 40 people were arrested in similar raids, of which four were described as “Boyat”, an Arabic term referring to tomboys which may also refer to lesbians, who were detained and are awaiting prosecution.
On the 29 April, seven gay men were arrested for wearing “indecent clothing” while spending time at the beach. Ten days earlier, 44 people were arrested, of whom, 4 were gay and 5 merely labelled as “cross-dressers.”
According to the activist, this is an attempt to appease MPs from the Islamist parties that now have a majority in Parliament (34 out of 50 seats).
Last week the Emir of Kuwait blocked a constitutional amendment to article 79 as to make Sharia “the only source” of legislation rather than a major or main source as it is now. Nevertheless the Islamists MPs have vowed that they will not desist and continue with pressures for constitutional amendments.
On 24 May, MP Dr. Al-Damkhi, a member of the parliamentary committee on tackling “practices alien to Kuwaiti society”, proposed to set up a “Rehab centre” to ‘treat negative phenomena alien to Kuwaiti society.’ DR Al-Damkhi explained that such a facility is needed ‘in light of the occasional spread of negative phenomena alien to our Kuwaiti society.’
He suggested that the centre would aim ‘to promote noble values amongst Kuwaiti youth, who are the future of the country; to fight what affects the moral values of the society; and to encourage the youth to be involved in fields that serve the nation’.
In addition it would ‘treat cases of gender identity disorder” which will solve the problem of “inappropriate treatment by the police” and allow “imitators” to receive treatment “for their conditions”. He stated that ‘providing rehab to such patients has become a necessity’.
On December 10, 2007, the 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. Bill architect and long standing Kuwaiti politician Al-Otaib, who headed at the time the parliamentary committee monitoring “practices alien to Kuwaiti society”, said: ‘The law criminalising people who imitate the appearance of the opposite sex must be implemented and respected … Kuwait should ignore any international criticism.’
This law caused massive persecution and misery to transgender people in Kuwait which was slammed in a HRW report published on 15 January this year, criticising arrests, torture and abuse of transgender people in the country.
Article 193 of the Penal Code punishes homosexuality between men, over the age of 21, with up to seven years imprisonment. If the conduct involves persons under the age of 21, then imprisonment can be for a maximum of ten years.