Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sex between men
Summary

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 1960, which criminalises acts of ‘consensual sex’. This provision carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment. Only men are criminalised under this law. In addition to potentially being captured by laws that criminalise same-sex activity, trans people were previously criminalised under Article 198 of the Penal Code, which prohibited the ‘imitation of the opposite sex’, however this law was found to be unconstitutional in 2022.

Kuwait was a British protectorate until its independence in 1961. The 1960 Penal Code, adopted just prior to formal independence, continues to be in operation today and criminalises same-sex sexual activity. According to the Constitution, Islamic law is the main source of legislation in Kuwait.

There is some evidence of the law criminalising same-sex sexual activity being enforced in recent years. There was substantial evidence of the law criminalising ‘imitation of the opposite sex’ being enforced prior to it being found unconstitutional in 2022. There have been some reports of discrimination being committed against LGBT people in recent years, and transgender people appear particularly vulnerable to abuse.

Criminalising Trans People

While Kuwait has ended the criminalisation of trans people, many more countries continue to use the law to marginalise people based on their gender identity or expression. We’ve reported on the extent and effects of the criminalisation of trans people.

Read more
Enforcement

2021

In October, a transgender Kuwaiti woman was sentenced to two years in prison for “imitating the opposite sex” under Article 198 of the 1960 Penal Code.

2017

In April, it was reported that police arrested 41 people in a raid of a “homosexual massage parlour”.

A “moral” crackdown on the LGBT community was reported in August. Authorities deported 76 men and shut down 22 massage parlours that were suspected of being a hub for homosexual activity.

2014

In May, 32 individuals were arrested for taking part in an alleged “gay party”. Numerous arrests have previously been reported.

2012

A Human Rights Watch report on transgender individuals living in Kuwait suggested Article 198 was used to arbitrarily arrest transgender people, but that there were very few actual prosecutions.

A series of mass arrests as part of a ‘morality campaign’ were reported in 2012. The arrests appeared to target LGBT people and others suspected of ‘immoral activities’. It is not clear whether any of these arrests resulted in prosecution.

Discrimination and Violence

2020

The US Department of State report noted that societal discrimination and harassment occurred, and was practiced by officials. No registered LGBT organisations existed, and no public events or pride marches were held.

2017

In September, a Polish Instagram celebrity was arrested in a Kuwaiti mall for looking too feminine. He was detained by the police, humiliated and beaten before being released and deported after two weeks of detention. 

2012

A report by Human Rights Watch documented significant societal discrimination and abuse of transgender women, including harassment, sexual assault, physical violence, and psychological abuse.

Other Developments

2018

In October, the authorities banned the Indian movie, “5 Weddings”, because it featured Hijras.

References

Related Countries

Iraq

Iraq criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Possible sentences are unclear, but the death penalty has been imposed on LGBT people.

Iran

Iran criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.

Saudi Arabia

Country profile of Saudi Arabia. LGBT people are Saudi Arabia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death. under Sharia Law.

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