"In Kuwait, strict Islamic moral standards still exist, which are also incorporated into criminal law. Among other things, prostitution, homosexuality, sexual intercourse between unmarried people, "public obscenity", public gambling and the consumption of alcohol are punishable under criminal law,"1 writes the Foreign Office on its website with travel advice for Kuwait.
In concrete terms, the criminalisation of homosexuality is set out in two legislative texts. In the Penal Code of 1960 one finds Article 193, which criminalises consensual intercourse between (adult) men and provides for a prison sentence of up to seven years: "Consensual intercourse between men of full age (from the age of 21) shall be punishable with a term of imprisonment up to seven years".2 Women are not mentioned here.
Article 198 of the Penal Code generally prohibits "public obscenity" and also provides for penalties for people who do not appear "according to their sex": "Whoever makes a lewd signal or act in public space (...) or appears like the opposite sex in any way, shall be punished."3 Article 198 thus enables the government to suppress external expressions of sexuality in the LGBT+ community through imprisonment and fines.
In the report "THEY HUNT US DOWN FOR FUN - Discrimination and Police Violence Against Transgender Women in Kuwait", which was published in 2012, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also describes the problems posed by Article 198 in particular. The vague wording of the paragraph gives the police and the courts the opportunity for a broad interpretation and dogmatic condemnation. Reasons for arrest can be as banal as having a face that is too "sensual", wearing a watch that is too feminine, or having a soft voice, as victims report in conversation with HRW.4
Abuse by the police, which is legitimised by the Criminal Code, takes place in secret and involves physical and psychological violence for the victims. Due to persistent threats and abuse, those affected often do not dare to turn to legal institutions, thus keeping human rights violations hidden.5
Article 21 of the Press and Publication Act can also be used by state institutions to suppress LGBT+ people. It enables media content that violates general morality or incites to commit criminal offences to be banned and removed.6 Articles 193 and 198 of the Penal Code are therefore also expressly used to refer to LGBT+ content in publications and online media. For example, the Disney film "Beauty and the Beast" was banned because it shows a same-sex kiss.7 Foreigners are also affected by bans. In October 2019, the government banned the performance of a Korean pop band at the last minute. There were no other official statements in this regard, but it was reported that the reason for the ban was the rumour that all band members were homosexual.8
However, in addition to individual attacks, the government is also taking specific action against gatherings of the domestic LGBT+ community. In August 2017, several media reported that 76 men were abducted and 22 massage studios closed because they were seen as "places for homosexual activities."9
1 Deutsches Auswärtiges Amt: Kuwait – Rechtliche Besonderheiten, abgerufen am 25.03.2020
2 Human Dignity Trust: Kuwait
3 Human Dignity Trust: Kuwait
4 Human Rights Watch: “THEY HUNT US DOWN FOR FUN”, Discrimination and Police Violence Against Transgender Women in Kuwait, 2012, S.15
5 Human Rights Watch: “THEY HUNT US DOWN FOR FUN”, Discrimination and Police Violence Against Transgender Women in Kuwait, 2012, S.47
6 ILGA World: Lucas Ramon Mendos, State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019: Global Legislation Overview Update (Geneva; ILGA, December 2019), S.61
7 Kate Feldman, “‘Beauty and the Beast’ pulled from theaters in Kuwait by censors”, New York Daily News, 20 March 2017
8 "Because You're GAY! K-Pop Band "D-Crunch" Got Kicked off Stage in Kuwait. Watch Their Devastated Reaction!", Al Bawaba, 28 October 2019
9 Human Dignity Trust: Kuwait
Text: Das Auswanderermuseum BallinStadt