Gulf Countries Consider Medical Checks To Ban Transgender Expats

Oct 12, 2013
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Kuwait proposal aimed at preventing transgender migrant workers from entering six-member Gulf Co-operation Council countries criticized as ‘immoral.’

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) will next month consider a proposal from Kuwait to introduce medical checks to prevent transgender people from entering the six-member Arab countries as migrant workers.

The Saudi-based Arab News reported this week that authorities in Kuwait’s ministry of health have proposed “genetic tests” aimed at detecting transsexuals who wish to enter and work in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, where the 2022 football World Cup is scheduled to be held.

Medical screening designed to determine the sex of migrant workers has already been in place for some time in some Arab countries but the new proposal specifically targets members of the transgender community.

“Undergoing the test will become mandatory for an estimated 289 health centers across the GCC if the health council approves the proposal of tighter controls on gender tests for migrant workers,” Tawfiq Khojah, a GCC health official, told the English-language newspaper. In 2012, Khojah said, more than 2 million expatriates underwent the gender tests.

It is not clear how doctors will determine the gender identity of migrants and whether the new tests will include physical checks. Arab News said the medical history of the workers would be used in determining their gender.

The London-based human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, said the Kuwaiti proposal was unjust and discriminatory towards transgender people.

“Excluding expat workers because of their gender identity is immoral and doesn’t make economic sense,” he told the Guardian. “People should be employed solely on the basis of their personal integrity and their ability to do the job. Trans people make perfectly good, reliable employees.”

The new proposal would also violate Fifa’s non-discrimination values and prompts questions about Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 tournament, Tatchell said.

“The proposals to test and ban foreign trans employees from the Gulf Co-operation countries will include Qatar and will penalize World Cup construction and hospitality staff from overseas who are trans,” he said.

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“If these plans get the go-ahead, Fifa should cancel the 2022 World Cup contract on the grounds that Qatar has violated Fifa’s non-discrimination values. It should find a new host city for the 2022 tournament. Discrimination against trans people is incompatible with Fifa’s commitment to equality for all.”

Earlier in the week, the Dubai-based Gulf News quoted a Kuwaiti health ministry official as saying that the clinical screening targets gay people.

“We will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states,” Yousuf Mindkar, the director of public health at Kuwait’s ministry of health, told a local newspaper. Some Arab countries are particularly sensitive to tourists or workers with Aids.

“There is no known medical test to detect homosexuality. I wonder what quackery the Kuwaiti authorities plan to invent in their vain attempt to identify gay men. It simply won’t work,” Tatchell said.

Unlike in most Arab countries, Iran legalized transsexuality after a 1987 fatwa by the late founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran and its Arab neighbors, however, criminalize homosexuality. Despite the legalization in Iran, the social stigma means that transsexuals there enjoy almost no more immunity than those in the Arab countries. Iran permits more sex-change operations than any other country, except Thailand, and has long subsidized such surgeries.


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