Thursday, November 01, 2012

It's Hell To Be Trans In Kuwait

While we think we have it tough being trans in the United States, there are some parts of the world where just trying to live our trans lives can lead to severe harassment, arrest or death.

Our transsisters in Kuwait since 2007 have been dealing with the deleterious fallout from an amendment to Article 198 of the Kuwaiti Penal Code that arbitrarily criminalizes 'imitating the opposite sex in that nation.  

It has led to a rise in transphobic discrimination against trans women and according to a Human Rights Watch January 2012 report and trans activists in that nation, they face daily persecution, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse both at the hands of the police and the Kuwaiti public.  This is despite the fact that GID is officially recognized by the Kuwaiti Health Ministry as a legitimate medical condition

Police were given the freedom to determine whether a person’s appearance constitutes “imitating the opposite sex” without any specific criteria being laid down for what exactly constitutes violating Article 198.

Human Right Watch documented cases in which trans individuals were being arrested even when they were wearing male clothes and later forced by police to dress in women's clothing in order to claim they arrested them in that attire. 

Other Human Rights Watch cases documented interviewed trans women stating police arresting them because they had a soft voice or smooth skin.

A trans activist who spoke to Gay Middle East said, 'The situation in Kuwait is horrible for us, just intolerable. There are at least 13 transgender women in jail right now.' .Sheikh Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister of Kuwait, denied was happening when he was approached by international human rights activists.  

The trans prisoners the prime minister claims were arrested for other offenses were not allowed by Kuwaiti authorities to be interviewed by human rights activists to corroborate the veracity of his statement.

Kuwaiti media has been gleefully pushing transphobic coverage of the harassment, which doesn't help the situation.     

There have been calls to not only to repeal that portion of Article 198, but release the trans women who are in Kuwaiti jails and stop the persecution of trans women in that nation.  

I know we have our own problems in the United States, and I've documented them in this blog's electronic pages.  But that shouldn't stop us from being concerned about what is happening to our trans sister's human rights in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.   

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