Sunday, November 07, 2004

Kuwait: transsexual fighting for recognition

A 26-year-old male to female transsexual who goes by the name Amal is fighting to be recognized as a female.
One court ruled for her, another overturned it and now she is going to the Court of Cassation, her last avenue of appeal.

[...] Many Middle East countries refuse to recognize sex changes. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria do, but it takes complicated and lengthy court proceedings. Only Iran and Egypt allow people to officially change their gender with relative ease.

[...] Amal declined to discuss it [her operation], but claimed her body was already "80 per cent female" at birth.

"I found out that my case is not unknown to medicine," said Amal. "My real problem is with the lack of understanding by society and my family."

Last year, the Ministry of Education suspended Amal from her job [as a secretary] until she works out her legal status.

[...] In April, a court upheld her right to register as female because the sex-change operation was a health matter that merited an exception to Sharia, or Islamic law.

Gender is not "just . . . genitalia, it is also psychological feelings," the judges ruled.

Last month, an appeals court overturned the ruling, saying God decides gender and humans have no right to change it.

"Ahmed is still a man, and the operation he had does not change the way he was created, even if it changed the way he looks to others," said Mohammed al-Tabtabai, the dean of Kuwait's Sharia College. (full-text)
UPDATE: Found the following Reuters article (from back in April) about the first verdict ...
The Personal Status Court of First Instance ruled that the plaintiff had suffered physiologically and psychologically since childhood due to hormonal imbalances, defence lawyer Adel Al Yahya said yesterday.

Saturday's ruling has to be referred to a higher court before the decision becomes final, Al Yahya said, adding the process might take up to at least a month.

Yahya said he presented the court with an edict issued by Egypt's Al Azhar, Sunni Islam's top religious institution, that allowed people to change their gender if medical reports showed this was to their benefit.

"We have evidence, a fatwa from Al Azhar, because we have a case of illness, not a case of switching gender or as they call it in Kuwait a third-sex case," Al Yahya said. (source)
Interesting nugget from Gulf News ...
Amal's is not the first transsexual case in Kuwait. A court verdict in 1998 granted a female citizen a change in legal status as a male allegedly without a medical examination and without the controversy surrounding Amal's case. (source)