A bill to award harsher penalty for cross-dressing will come up for discussion in the House of Representatives this week.
The bill will be put to vote on amending Article 350 of the Penal Code on Tuesday to award imprisonment and a higher fine on imitators of the opposite sex, despite the reservations on the matter by a some authorities in the Kingdom.
Aimed at awarding higher penalties for “imitating the opposite gender”, the proposed bill, which was presented by MP Jamal Dawood in 2015, introduces a fine of up to BD1,000 and jail term of not more than one year for women who publicly dress and behave like men and vice versa.
Article 350 of the Penal Code reads, “A prison sentence for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding BD100 shall be the penalty for any person who commits in public an indecent act. Any person who commits an act of indecency with a female shall be liable for the same punishment, even though such act is not committed in public.”
The proposal comes to amend the existing text with, “A prison sentence for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding BD1000 shall be the penalty for any male or female who publicly imitate the opposite gender or publicly appear indecently in a way that contradicts with public morals and the traditions of the Kingdom.”
The proposal was recently passed for the second time by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security Committee in the House of Representatives after it was returned by the council last March.
The committee reviewed the proposed bill with several authorities that included the National Institution for Human Rights (NIHR), the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), Interior Ministry and the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
In its reply to the committee, NIHR and SCW had reservations concerning not specifying the crime or the behaviour of imitating the opposite sex in the proposal, requesting the House of Representatives to rephrase it as “it lacks clarity”.
Dawood and the other presenters of the proposal previously referred to a similar law enforced in Kuwait in 2007 to criminalise cross-dressing. However, the Kuwaiti legislation that the MPs referred to didn’t receive much welcoming from the international community, citing that it “leads to torture and arbitrary arrests”.