January 10, 2012


This report is based on a two-week field visit to Kuwait City in February 2011 and a follow up visit in December 2011.  Two Human Rights Watch researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 40 male-to-female transgender persons, all but one of whom had been arrested at least once for “imitating a member of the opposite sex,” as well as lawyers, doctors, health care workers, civil society activists, academics, a representative of the Kuwaiti police force, and elected members of Kuwait’s National Assembly.

On December 5, 2011, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior outlining the concerns described in this report, but we received no response. The letter can be found in the annex of the report.

Research also included reviewing local newspapers, TV shows, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) reports.

This report focuses on transgender women, since the vast majority of arrests for “imitating the opposite sex” have targeted that population. However, Human Rights Watch also spoke with several gay men, lesbians, boyat (a term common in the Gulf to describe masculine women, and female-to-male transgender persons, who face similar and equally serious problems.

The interviewees were identified primarily through word-of-mouth networking with members of the transgender community in Kuwait. Interviews were conducted individually and in Arabic.

This report employs pseudonyms in order to keep confidential the identities of transgender interviewees, and in some cases withholds other identifying information to protect their privacy and safety.

While the research presented in this report is not comprehensive or exhaustive, the similarity of the stories and the frequency with which certain experiences, such as sexual assault, were repeated indicate that the violations described in this report extend beyond isolated incidents and constitute a broader pattern of abuse.