GCC plan to ban homosexuals kicks up row

 09 Oct 2013 - 4:15




DOHA: Media reports that Gulf countries are planning to deny residency visas to people who are found to be transgender and homosexual after medical check up went viral on social networking sites in Qatar yesterday.

The reports trickled down from Kuwait where a senior public health official said Kuwait and other GCC states were mulling conducting tests to detect transgender people and homosexuals among newly-arriving foreign workers.

If the tests are positive, such workers would be refused residency and work visas, the director of public health in Kuwait, Dr Yusuf Mindkar told local Arabic daily Al Rai.

The tests, he said, could be made mandatory for all newly-recruited foreign workers before stamping their work and residency visas. Mindkar said a central committee of the GCC concerned with the recruitment of foreign workers was to be convened on November 11 to discuss the issue. He, however, didn’t disclose the venue of the proposed meet.

Al Rai daily, in a separate report, quoted some Kuwaiti parliament members as saying that they welcomed the idea and such a ban should be backed by law.

They said it was necessary to have such a ban to protect their society, culture and traditions. One parliamentarian, Osama Tahoos, however, said he wondered how a clinical test could be developed to find out if a person is homosexual. He cautioned that any such law should be drafted and enforced only after careful studies. 

“And if we are convinced that such legislation is needed, we can go ahead and implement it without fear of global human rights organisations,” said Tahoos. 

Meanwhile, most Qataris commenting on the issue on local social networking sites said they welcomed the move wholeheartedly.

But several of them added that they wondered what would happen to the homosexuals and transgender people in their own community.

Some commentators said the existing transgender and homosexual people among expatriates should be identified and repatriated. Only one among a large number of commentators said the issue involved personal freedom, but all others supported the call for a ban.

One Qatari said the proposed ban could create a problem for the FIFA 2022 event in Qatar. “I am sure Kuwait, if it applies the ban, would face world sanctions,” said another man, obliquely referring to the human rights issue.

About the transgender and homosexual people among locals, some people said they should be sent for military training.

Some commentators described their experience in massage centres in Doha where they said they were shocked to see people who looked “like women but were actually men”.

Narrating his experience, a Qatari said he was once asked by a doctor to have a massage with a medicinal lotion, so he went to a massage centre.

“There I found a group of men who looked like women,” he said. They charged QR150 an hour. “I paid the sum and when I handed the lotion for massage one of those guys said: ‘No habibi, this is not good. I have even a better lotion for you’”.

He said he immediately stood up and demanded his money back and left.

A Qatari columnist, Hassan Al Sai, wrote in the local Al Arab daily in June 2012 that once a GCC national visited him here and asked for a massage centre where he could go for fun and not for massage.

“If our laws permit massage centres where both men and women work, it would be a disaster,” Al Sai wrote. “Please stop this cheap tourism. We must never let our country become a tourism spot for cheap fun.”