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Kuwaiti MPs propose amendments to ‘imitating opposite sex’ rule

KUWAIT: MPs Osama Al-Shaheen and Abdulaziz Al-Saqaabi proposed an amendment to the penal code article that penalizes ‘imitating the opposite sex’ in Kuwait. They proposed defining a person who imitates the opposite sex as “any male who wears women’s clothing or make up that make him appear as a female, or any female who wears men’s clothing that makes her appear as a male according to customs,” in addition to any person “who undergoes cosmetic surgeries or takes medications with the intention to alter their appearance contrary to their nature.” The lawmakers proposed a maximum three-year jail term and/or KD 7,000 fine for violators.

Last week, the constitutional court struck down the article in the penal code that barred imitation of the opposite sex. That article, used for many years against transgender people and those who dress similar to the opposite sex, was ruled by the top court as against the constitution. A number of lawmakers said later that they have submitted a draft legislation to criminalize such imitation.

Amnesty International had called the court’s ruling “a breakthrough for transgender rights in the region”. Kuwaiti lawyer Ali Al-Aryan, who filed a lawsuit to overturn Article 198 of the penal code two years ago, confirmed that the law had been overturned, saying it violated personal freedoms, which are stipulated in the constitution. “The law was overly vague and broad, and we based our defense on the existence of medical and constitutional foundations, as there are hormonal as well as psychological contributors,” he said in a press statement.

“Article 198 was deeply discriminatory, overly vague and never should have been accepted into law in the first place,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement. “They must also immediately halt arbitrary arrests of transgender people and drop all charges and convictions brought against them under this transphobic law.”

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