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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora