At least seven transgender women have been arrested in the past week for reportedly "imitating the opposite sex," Pink News reports.
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).
In one of the latest incidents, a trans woman was arrested at a Kuwait City hair salon and charged with a number of offences — including imitating the opposite sex, sexual assault and being in a women-only space — after another client became suspicious of her and called the police.
Citing a Human Rights Watch 2012 report, Kuwait Times
notes that trans women have been the primary focus of police, who also arrest transgender men but on a less frequent basis. The report says police are more wary of targeting transgender men for fear of being accused of sexually harassing women, a serious charge in the country.
"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,'" the report states.
Sexual abuse at the hands of authorities is "rampant," the report adds, noting that trans women refrain from filing reports because they fear rearrest or retaliation from their attackers.