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Medical tests 'crazy'

HUMAN rights groups have condemned a controversial proposal to introduce clinical screenings designed to identify homosexuals and stop them entering Gulf countries.

A top Kuwaiti Health Ministry official said GCC states were considering allowing health centres to conduct medical checks on expatriates arriving in the region.

His proposal will be discussed during a high-level meeting due to be held in Kuwait on November 11.

"Health centres conduct routine medical checks to assess the health of expatriates when they come into the GCC countries," Kuwaiti Health Ministry public health director Yousuf Mindkar told the Kuwaiti newspaper 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."

But Bahrain Bloc MP Ahmed Al Sa'ati described the medical tests as crazy and illogical.

"This is a clear violation of human rights and we reject this proposal by the Kuwaiti official as it restricts freedom of individuals," he said.

"Islam teaches us that we cannot interfere in somebody's personal affairs."

Homosexuality and cross-dressing are illegal in Bahrain and lead to prison sentences or fines, according to the Penal Code.

Two hundred people were arrested at an alleged gay wedding in Bahrain on February 3, 2011.

The men, reported to be of GCC nationalities, were attending a party at the Hidd Sports Club.

Police raided the event after neighbours complained about the noise, while men dressed in women's clothing were allegedly seen at the hall.

Forty-nine of arrested men were later jailed for six months each.

Mr Al Sa'ati admitted the existence of gays in Bahrain, but said it was not a major problem.

"I reject any crazy medical tests to detect gays as it can gradually lead to clear discrimination where people from Asia and Europe will be targeted," he said.

"We cannot isolate ourselves from the international community and need to understand there are different shades of opinion."

The online UAE-based Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transsexual Rights group also backed the Bahraini MP's condemnation of the plan.

"The idea that the Kuwaiti government is planning to introduce a medical 'test' to detect lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people before they enter any of the GCC member states is shameful and morally repugnant," said the chairman of the group, who only wished to be named as Abdulla.

"It raises serious questions into what specifically those tests entail.

"Sadly it reflects the widely held belief that homosexuality is a Western invention, when in reality, we are a part of every society, and country or culture - whether they acknowledge it or not.

"We will do what needs to be done to fight intolerance, bigotry and ignorance."

Stonewall, the largest gay equality organisation in the UK and Europe, said Kuwait's proposal contradicted international laws.

"Many Gulf states have gone to great lengths to market themselves as open for international business," said its media manager Richard Lane.

"Their leaders should think long and hard about putting forward measures to restrict freedom of movement and further prohibit the best talent from doing business in the region simply because of their sexual orientation."

But Bahraini Fowzia Janahi, who is understood to be the only Arab lawyer specialising in transsexual cases in the region, backed the proposal.

"Homosexuality is allowed in Europe but in Gulf is not acceptable," she said.

"Kuwait should differentiate between people who are homosexual and transgender, as in the latter case they can get a medical report from concerned authorities that allows them to travel freely." sandy@gdn.com.bh



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