News / Middle East

Proposed Kuwait 'Gender Tests' Under Fire

Nepalese migrant workers arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on September 27, 2013. If the the GCC approves a Kuwaiti proposal, migrant workers seeking employment in Gulf countries will undergo mandatory gender tests.
Nepalese migrant workers arrive at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on September 27, 2013. If the the GCC approves a Kuwaiti proposal, migrant workers seeking employment in Gulf countries will undergo mandatory gender tests.
Cecily Hilleary
A proposal by Kuwait’s Ministry of Health to require “medical tests” designed to bar any migrant workers deemed to be homosexual or transgender from entering Kuwait or any other country that belongs to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is generating intense criticism.

Amnesty International has described the measure as outrageous and called on it to be rejected “out of hand.”  Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, said the proposal is “an affront to the fundamental right to privacy and underscores the continuing persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In Kuwait, sexual relations between same-sex consulting adults are illegal, and those convicted under the law can be sent to prison for up to 10 years. 

The proposal has alarmed the international gay community, which worries that “gay tests” might be performed on all visitors to Gulf states – including those attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  Some groups also worry Kuwait will institute so-called “tests of shame” -- anal and vaginal examinations that have been used by police in Lebanon and elsewhere to determine sexual orientation or virginity.  The GCC is made up of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. 

Graeme ReidGraeme Reid
x
Graeme Reid
Graeme Reid
Graeme Reid, Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch in New York, said while his group is alarmed at the proposal HRW has so far been unable to verify how extensively it will be implemented. 

“We have been trying to verify these reports directly with members of Kuwait’s parliament and the people who have apparently made these statements and we have had no success,” he said. 

“It is likely that it [the proposed law] is aimed at transgender workers, which would be bad enough in and of itself,” Reid said.  “But I think that it has been interpreted to mean that random visitors coming through the airport would be tested for homosexuality, and I don’t think that is what is being said.”

Although Kuwait’s health department officially recognizes Gender Identity Disorder, parliament passed a law in 2007 banning “imitating the opposite sex.”  Rights activists say this paved the way for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of transgender individuals by both police and public. 

The 2012 HRW report “They Hunt Us Down for Fun” details how people in Kuwait can be arrested for anything from “wearing a feminine watch” to having too soft a voice or complexion. Detainees may be subjected to bodily inspection by doctors. 

“It shows a real anxiety,” said Reid, “about gender nonconformity in Kuwait.”
Reid said that up until a few years ago, transgender individuals had a somewhat hostile “but joking” relationship with police in Kuwait. “It wasn’t violent and abusive in the way that it became after the passage of the law.”

Who will be tested?

Kuwaiti lawmakers who back the proposal said they are seeking to identify and ban persons of the “third sex,” a non-medical catch phrase used regionally to describe transgender or intersex individuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs, gays and lesbians.

Hossein AlizadehHossein Alizadeh
x
Hossein Alizadeh
Hossein Alizadeh
“The problem is that these guys are on a witch hunt without knowing what, exactly, they are chasing,” said Hossein Alizadeh, the Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

“There are huge misconceptions about gender and sexuality in most of these countries, and this misinformation informs the policies of these countries.  Using the term ‘third gender’ and then also using the term ‘homosexual’ means that they really don’t know what they are talking about.  And if you don’t know what you are looking for, what kind of test are you going to use?” Alizadeh said.

He said while the proposal is misguided it’s not likely to affect casual visitors.  “Kuwaiti officials have made it very clear that the proposed law would not target tourists, especially anyone from the global North.” 

According to Alizadeh, the policy targets only those applying for work from specific countries of origin, as listed on the GCC Health Council website – which he said does not make the testing any less discriminatory.

“You are applying this kind of law to citizens to citizens of certain countries, to a very specific class of laborers who are in need of financial resources and are more vulnerable,” Alizadeh said. 

The testing proposal has the support of the director of the GCC Health Ministers Council, Tawfiq Khojah, who told Arab News that if the proposal is approved, testing will become mandatory at 289 health centers across the GCC, and that testing is necessary to help “preserve Islamic principles.”

Anger over “interference” in Kuwait

Kuwaiti lawmakers have slammed what they call interference by Amnesty International.  M.P. Abdurrahman Al-Jeeran said the matter is “sovereign” and urged the rights group to “pay attention to the noble goals it was established for,” and stop defending what he described as “deviants.” Former MP Mohammad Al Hayef accused the rights group of encouraging “behavior that is against human nature.”

According to Amnesty International the proposal will be debated at a meeting of the GCC Central Committee for Expatriate Labor Forces in Oman on November 11.  The committee sets migration policies in the region and if the proposal passes gender testing will become mandatory in all six GCC member states.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid