Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males

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


In September, the General Department of Criminal Investigation, represented by the Department for the Protection of Public Morals, arrested a number of individuals on charges of acts contrary to public morals and incitement to debauchery and immorality, in Mahboula, Salmiya, Hawalli, and Farwaniya, and they were referred to the competent authorities to take all legal measures against them. It is unclear how many people were arrested, local newspapers citing 71 or 31 individuals, and whether they were charged or not under Article 193 criminalising sex between men.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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. 


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


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


Related Countries


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 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.

Support our Work

Almost 70 countries still criminalise LGBT people. Together, we can bring this number down. A donation today will help continue our vital support for LGBT people and governments seeking to change laws around the world.


Sign up to receive updates

Join our newsletter to receive regular updates about decriminalisation efforts around the world, including breaking news on key legal cases, hot off the press reports, invitations to events and messages from our Chief Executive.