Three separate incidents were reported by Kuwaiti media on Monday all in a sensationalist manner which appears designed to stir up public feeling.
In the first, an 18-year-old Kuwaiti transgender man was arrested after a fight broke out between a group of young men over his ‘male-like’ appearance. He was dressed in the traditional Kuwaiti male dishdasha and ghutra.
The men mistakenly thought the transgender man was a male-to-female transgender woman and started to harass him. Two shops were damaged during the transphobic incident and the police arrested some of the men who caused the damage.
Instead of protecting or intervening to help, the police arrested him and he was charged with “imitating the opposite sex,” reported Al-Anba.
The offense relates to a 2007 bill pushed forward by Islamic MPs that amended article 198 of penal code so that anyone “imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex” could be jailed for up to a year or fined up to 1,000 dinars (about $3,500).
This law has been causing substantial persecution and misery to transgender people in Kuwait and was slammed in a Human Rights Watch report published on January 15, which criticized arrests, torture and abuse of transgender people in the country.
In another incident Al-Rai, one of the influential Kuwaiti daily papers ran an article about a man who asked police detectives to locate his wife who left him. The police broke into her flat as they thought she was committing adultery, which is a crime in Kuwait carrying a punishment of 100 lashes or three years in prison.
The wife however claimed that she left her husband and home because he was having sex with transgender people.
The police ‘verified’ the information and thus did not take any action against the woman.
According to a Kuwaiti transgender activist these ongoing ‘moral campaigns’ are an attempt by the ruling royal family to appease MPs from the Islamist parties that now have a majority in Parliament with 34 out of 50 seats.
She stated: ‘I am worried about the media sensationalism trying to pander to the Islamists.
‘They may well set a trap for the alleged transgender people in order to arrest them, if they haven’t done so already.’
In another incident, also reported by Al-Rai, a group of three Filipino women working in a café were arrested for attempting to sell sexual gadgets for a woman.
The Kuwaiti transgender activist said she was concerned that these allegations might be false in order to create more sensationalist fervour with the police depicted as heroic guardians of morality.
‘I am also very worried about the abuse and torture they would face while in detention’, she added.