BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Kuwaiti activists estimate that about 11 transgender people are in jail awaiting trial, with six of them having been arrested in the last two weeks, Gay Star News reports.
The report quotes a trans activist as saying that the "situation here is getting worse by the day."
"The authorities are using the article prohibiting 'imitating the opposite sex' to violate our freedom of expression, and as a political weapon," the activist told Gay Star News. "Transgender people have to be in disguise all the time, we can’t even leave home or walk among the society, we have to remain hidden for our safety and we’re treated as criminals.
"Our country is regressing both legally and socially; sexual orientation and gender identity is increasingly talked about by politicians and the media as an 'epidemic' that the country must get rid of."
In mid-October, police arrested five transgender women, three of them for holding "transsexual-only parties." In a separate incident, police stopped a car whose passengers included a trans woman and a minor, also reported to be transgender.
In 2007, the Kuwaiti parliament passed a bill amending the penal code so that anyone "imitating the appearance of a member of the opposite sex" could be jailed for up to a year or fined up to 1,000 dinars ($3,500).
Gay Star News adds, "In the fight between the government controlled by the royal al-Sabah family and the Islamists opposition, morality and often LGBT people are used as scapegoats; the issue of sexuality is used as a weapon by the opposition to portray the ruling family and its liberal allies as corrupt and morally defunct and dependent on an immoral West."
A Human Rights Watch report in January also criticized the arrests, torture and abuse of transgender people in the country.
In part, the 63-page report states, "Police have free rein to determine whether a person’s appearance constitutes 'imitating the opposite sex' without any specific criteria being laid down for the offense. Transgender women reported being arrested even when they were wearing male clothes and then later being forced by police to dress in women’s clothing, and the claim made that they arrested them in that attire. In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, transgender women said police arrested them because they had a 'soft voice' or 'smooth skin.'"
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