Transgender woman Maha al-Mutairi was jailed in October 2021 for “imitating the opposite sex” in Kuwait
In a victory for LGBTQ rights, the Kuwaiti Constitutional Court has thrown out a law used to jail transgender people.
The court ruled last week that Article 198 of the Penal Code, which criminalised “imitation of the opposite sex”, violates Article 30 of the constitution which guarantees personal freedom.
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.
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“The Kuwaiti authorities must now ensure that Article 198 is repealed in its entirety.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.”
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.”
Homosexuality remains illegal in Kuwait with a term of imprisonment of up to seven years.