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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora