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Transgender people forbidden from imitating opposite sex

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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 17, (AP): Kuwait’s constitutional court has struck down a contentious law long used to criminalize transgender people by forbidding the “imitation of the opposite sex.” After weeks of deliberation and years of campaigning by human rights groups, the court ruled that the vague law policing people who dress and behave like the opposite sex was “inconsistent with the constitution’s keenness to ensure and preserve personal freedom.”

The law had set the maximum penalty for cross dressing at one-year in prison or a fine of $3,300. The decision was hailed as a liberal counterweight to the conservative politics in Kuwait, a Gulf Arab sheikhdom where homosexual relations are criminalized with up to seven years in prison.

Amnesty International welcomed the overturning of the penal code’s Article 198 as “a major breakthrough” for the rights of transgender people in the region. Similar laws criminalize transgender expression across the conservative Arabian Peninsula.

Throughout the Arab world, gay, lesbian and transgender people face legal and social discrimination and other formidable obstacles to living their lives openly. “Article 198 was deeply discriminatory, overly vague and never should have been accepted into law in the first place,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa division, while urging caution about the decision’s ultimate impact and enforcement

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