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Mass arrests in Kuwait of party-goers for 'vice' and 'immorality'

in KUWAIT, 27/05/2012

Police round up 149 people, including at least four gay men and two transgender women. Checkpoints targeting 'immorality', particularly LGBT people.

Kuwaiti media reports that 149 were arrested this weekend (19-20 May) for 'immoral' behavior, including four gay men and two transgender women. Most reports alleged they were engaged in 'prostitution' although others 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’.

Emirates 24/7 further reported that the campaign involved hundreds of security agents covering several areas of Kuwait city. It 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.

Speaking with Gay Star News transgender Kuwaiti activist, who we are not naming to protect her safety, stated ‘they call it “prostitution places" but in fact these were private parties in homes and apartments. 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 an increasing number of check points have been put in place, targeting a wide range of behavior and people, including transgender people, gays, lesbians, people ‘drinking alcohol, couples, parties, and any "inappropriate" kind of clothing’.

However, LGBT people, according to her, are signalled out in particular. She reported that on Sunday (20 May) a transgender woman was caught, beaten and then arrested at a checkpoint.
The activist told us: 'She was wearing loose men clothes and covering her hair going back to her place from friends. She faced three check points, the first two were 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 to her.’

This campaign is just one in series ordered by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior; the previous weekend (12 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 29 April seven gay men were arrested for wearing 'indecent clothing' while spending time at the beach. And previously, on 19 April, 44 people were arrested, including four people identified as gay and five 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 with 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 April MP Dr Adel Al-Damkhi, a member of the parliamentary committee on tackling 'practices alien to Kuwaiti society', proposed to set up a 'rehab center' to ‘treat negative phenomena alien to Kuwaiti society.’ 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 center 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’. Globally accepted clinical practice states that such treatment is misguided and potentially dangerous.

This comes after a long build-up. On 10 December 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 ($3,500 €2,800).

Bill architect and long standing Kuwaiti politician Faisal 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 substational persecution and misery to transgender people in Kuwait which was slammed in a Human Rights Watch report published on 15 January this year criticizing 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 10 years.

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