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Kuwait overturns transphobic law in ‘major breakthrough’

The ruling from the Constitutional Court says the law is "inconsistent with the keenness of the Constitution to ensure personal freedom".

By Alastair James

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki

Kuwait has overturned a law prohibiting people from “imitating the opposite sex” which has been used to persecute trans people in the country.

The ruling from the Constitutional Court delivered on 16 February says that Article 198 of the penal code, which was imposed in 2007, was “inconsistent with the keenness of the Constitution to ensure personal freedom”.

It said: “The court made it clear in the rationale for its ruling that the text did not include a disciplined objective criterion that must be observed to determine that legally sinful act, and what is considered to be an imitation of the opposite sex and what is not.”

“Major breakthrough”

The law was deemed too broad and too ambiguous meaning it would be up to the discretion of the authorities to decide if the law had been contravened.

This, the ruling reads, “is inconsistent with the keenness of the Constitution to ensure personal freedom and preserve it.”

“Progress for once amidst the darkness we’ve been swimming in lately,” was how one person described the news on Twitter as many celebrated the move, which was deemed to be a “major breakthrough” by Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Lynn Maalouf.

They added: “Article 198 was deeply discriminatory, overly vague and never should have been accepted into law in the first place,” as well as calling on the Kuwait authorities to “halt arbitrary arrests of transgender people and drop all charges and convictions brought against them under this transphobic law,” and for anyone “juntly imprisoned” to be released. 

According to Amnesty International, Maha al-Mutairi, a trans woman, was sentenced to two years in prison last October under the act but was released upon appeal last year. 

Rasha Younes, an LGBT Human Rights research at the Human Rights Watch said the court’s decision is “an important step in securing justice for #transgender people,” and also called for Article 198 to be completely appealed. 

Homosexuality is illegal in Kuwait with people persecuted for same-sex sexual relations facing up to seven years in prison. 

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