Responding to the Kuwaiti Constitutional Court’s decision today to overturn Article 198 of the Penal Code, which criminalized “imitation of the opposite sex”, because it violates Article 30 of the constitution that guarantees personal freedom, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:
“The Kuwaiti Constitutional Court’s decision to overturn Article 198 of the Penal Code is a welcome development and a major breakthrough for transgender rights in the region. 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“The Kuwaiti authorities must now ensure that Article 198 is repealed in its entirety.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.
“All those unjustly imprisoned under Article 198 must now be released. The authorities must also investigate all allegations of torture by security forces and install an independent mechanism for monitoring police behaviour.”
In May 2007, Kuwait’s National Assembly voted to amend Article 198 of the Penal Code. The adjustment criminalized “indecent” gestures in public and imitation of the opposite sex — a “crime” punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine. The amendment was applied arbitrarily.
On 29 December 2021, the Constitutional Court accepted a legal challenge to Article 198.
On 3 October 2021, a court sentenced Maha al-Mutairi, a transgender woman, to two years in prison and a fine under Article 70 of the Telecommunications Law and Article 198 of the Penal Code.
On 5 June 2020, Maha al-Mutairi posted videos on Snapchat accusing police officers of raping and beating her during a seven-month period of detention in 2019 for “imitating the opposite sex”. She was released on appeal in 2021.
**Correction** Maha al-Mutairi was released on appeal late last year.