Amnesty praise 'breakthrough' law change for transgender rights in Kuwait

Amnesty praise 'breakthrough' law change for transgender rights in Kuwait
The rights based NGO labelled the development a 'major breakthrough for transgender rights' in Kuwait, but emphasised more needs to be done and that all convictions against transgender people in the country should be dropped.
2 min read
17 February, 2022
Amnesty International referred to the overturned law as "transphobic" [Getty]

Amnesty International has praised the Kuwaiti constitutional court's overturning of a law that criminalised the "imitation of the opposite sex", but emphasised more needs to be done for transgender rights in the country in a statement on Wednesday.

Article 198 of the country's Penal Code - deemed by the court on Wednesday as "unconstitutional" - threatened those found guilty with up to a year in prison and fines.

Kuwait's court accepted a legal challenge to the article last December, over two months after Maha al-Mutairi, a trans woman, was sentenced to two years in prison in the country and was fined for charges including breaking article 198.

Despite the "welcome development and a major breakthrough for transgender rights in the region", Amnesty have demanded that all charges and convictions brought against transgender people in the country under the "transphobic law", are dropped.

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"Kuwaiti authorities must now ensure that Article 198 is repealed in its entirety... all those unjustly imprisoned under Article 198 must now be released," Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said, calling for the release of al-Mutairi.

"Article 198 was deeply discriminatory... and never should have been accepted into law in the first place," Maalouf added.

In its rationale for the ruling, the court stated that the article did not contain clear enough guidelines to determine what "imitation" would consist of, labelling it "very general and broad", and not specific enough to "legally determine a sinful act".

"[The article] contradicts what the Constitution has been keen on, [in] guaranteeing and preserving personal freedom," the court said, as Article 30 of the Kuwaiti constitution guarantees "personal liberty".

In 2007, Kuwait's National Assembly voted to amend Article 198 from a public decency law to a law forbidding imitation of the opposite sex "in any way", with those breaking the law facing one year in prison, a 1,000 Kuwaiti dinar fine ($3322), or both.

Kuwaiti lawyer Ali al-Aryan, who filed a lawsuit to overturn the article two years ago, confirmed that the law had been overturned, AFP reported.