GCC homosexual ban 'just a plan', says Kuwait official

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In the ongoing debate over Kuwait’s push to introduce a medical test to identify and ban homosexual foreigners from working in the Gulf, a senior Kuwaiti official has said the ban is just a proposal at present and it is not clear whether it will be accepted by lawmakers, it was reported.

Speaking to an Arabic language newspaper earlier this month, Yousuf Mindkar, the director of public health at Kuwait’s Ministry of Health, said that a central committee will be set up to investigate the proposal when it convenes in November.

He claimed that the measure could also be introduced in all GCC states. It has not been explained how the proposed medical tests would work.

“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries,” he was quoted as saying by Al Rai. “However, 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.”

Khalid Al Jarallah, the foreign ministry undersecretary and senior Kuwaiti official, said reiterated the fact the ban was simply a proposal at present and its adoption was still not 10 percent guaranteed.

“It is a mere proposal that Kuwait will present to fellow GCC members in order to look into the possibility of amending the medical checkup rules for foreigners wishing to work and live in the GCC,” he was quoted as saying by local daily Al Rai.

“The proposal will be debated and it may or may not be accepted. The debate will reflect the keen interest of the GCC countries in human rights taking into consideration the teachings of our religion and international agreements.”

If adopted, the medical tests and ban will be adopted across the GCC, in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The proposal received global media coverage and was criticised by Amnesty International, which demanded the Gulf state dropped the controversial ban.

The comments by the rights group led to several Kuwait MPs demanding the Foreign Ministry address the issue.

MP Abdurrahman Al Jeeran was quoted as saying by the Kuwait Times newspaper: “The decision to ban entrance of homosexuals is sovereign and one that the Amnesty International has no right to interfere with."

Al Jeeran called on Amnesty International to “pay attention to the noble goals it was established for and put aside defending deviants and human garbage”.

Another MP, MP Mohammad Al Jabri, reportedly added: "I was shocked like every other citizen in Kuwait by these calls, shameless demands, and blatant interference in the affairs of an Islamic state whose people are committed to the teachings and principles of sharia."

Al Jabri demanded a response from the Foreign Ministry “that explains the high principles, values, and teachings of Islam that the Kuwaiti people believe in and prohibit the vice-spreading practices that the organisation demands”.

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa director, said earlier this month: “This proposal will only further stigmatise people who already suffer extremely high levels of discrimination and abuse on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“It is an affront to the fundamental human right to privacy and underscores the continuing persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Instead of continuing to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals, the authorities in Kuwait should work to ensure that people are not harassed and abused because of who they are and should repeal laws that criminalise sexual acts between consenting adults.”

Homosexual behaviour is currently illegal in all GCC states and much of the Arab world.

Last month, the government of Oman sued the editor of a weekly tabloid and suspended it from publication after it ran a story about gays in the Gulf Arab state.

The Week's publisher Saleh Zakwani said the Ministry of Information had told him not to publish the September 5 issue, but it was not clear how long the suspension was for.

"No harm was intended by the story," he told Reuters.

The article in The Week, which distributes 51,000 copies in the Gulf sultanate, suggested that Oman was more tolerant about people's sexuality than other Gulf states.

The article was denounced across online social networks in Oman and the newspaper was forced to apologise.

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