Kuwait overturns law criminalising ‘imitation of opposite sex’

Amnesty International welcomed the decision, saying it marked 'a major breakthrough' for transgender rights in Kuwait.

Kuwait’s constitutional court on Wednesday overturned a law that criminalises “imitation of the opposite sex” in a move Amnesty International said was a breakthrough for transgender rights in the region. 

Kuwaiti lawyer Ali al-Aryan, who filed a lawsuit to overturn Article 198 of the penal code two years ago, confirmed that the law had been overturned, saying it violated personal freedoms, which are stipulated in the constitution. 

“The law was overly vague and broad, and we based our defence on the existence of medical and consitutional foundations, as there are hormonal as well as psychological contributors,” he told AFP. 

Amnesty welcomed the court’s decision, saying it marked “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,” its Middle East and North Africa deputy director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement. 

“They must also immediately halt arbitrary arrests of transgender people and drop all charges and convictions brought against them under this transphobic law.” 

She also called for the release of those “unjustly imprisoned”, including Maha al-Mutairi who was sentenced last year to two years in prison for being transgender, among other charges. 

Maha al-Mutairi, 40, had been arrested several times before on the same grounds, her lawyer, Ibtissam al-Enezi, told AFP at the time, but added that the latest conviction – which included “misusing phone communication” – had been by far “the harshest”.

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