Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape carries a maximum penalty of death, which the courts occasionally imposed for the crime; spousal rape is not a crime. Authorities did not effectively enforce laws against rape. Violence against women continued to be a problem. There were reports alleging that some police stations did not take seriously reports by both citizens and noncitizens of rape and domestic violence.
Media reported two to three dozen rape cases, but government statistics were unavailable. Incidents of rape were likely underreported to authorities due to intense social stigma associated with sexual violence crimes. Many victims were noncitizen domestic workers. When reported, police typically arrested and investigated alleged rapists and, in a limited number of cases, prosecuted the accused. In September 2015 the Court of Cassation revoked a life sentence on a citizen for raping a Filipina woman and instead sentenced him to death.
The government does not publish statistics on violence against women. A local women’s advocacy NGO estimated 20,000 women were victims of some form of domestic violence or abuse during the year. The law does not specifically prohibit domestic violence, but in some instances courts try such cases as assault. A victim of domestic violence may file a complaint with police requesting formal charges be brought against the alleged abuser. Victims, however, did not report most domestic abuse cases, especially outside the capital. There were no known shelters specifically for victims of domestic violence. In July 2015 the government established two hotlines for reporting domestic violence. The hotlines are operational only during the working hours and are operated by staff with limited training. Calls and cases are referred to professional social workers. In some cases hospitals denied treatment for victims of sexual assault who had not reported the case to the police first. In December 2015 a noncitizen woman who was raped sought medical care at a hospital but was informed that a police officer would have to interview her first.
A woman may petition for divorce based on injury from spousal abuse, but the law does not provide a clear legal standard regarding what constitutes injury. Additionally, a woman must provide at least two male witnesses (or a male witness and two female witnesses) to attest to such injury.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Officials did not report any honor killings during the year. The penal code penalizes some honor crimes as misdemeanors. The law states that a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother, or sister in the “act of adultery” and immediately kills her or the man with whom she is committing adultery faces a maximum punishment of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 225 dinars ($743).
Sexual Harassment: Human rights groups characterized sexual harassment in the workplace as a pervasive and unreported problem. No specific law addresses sexual harassment, but the law criminalizes “encroachment on honor,” which encompasses everything from touching a woman against her will to rape, and police strictly enforced this law. The government deployed female police officers specifically to combat sexual harassment in shopping malls and other public spaces. Perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault faced fines and imprisonment.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of government interference in the right of couples and individuals to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of children; to manage their reproductive health; and to have access to the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The information and means to make decisions, as well as skilled attendance during prenatal care, essential obstetric care, childbirth, and postpartum care were freely available. While the government did not provide any formal family planning programs, contraceptives were available without prescription to citizens and noncitizens: 44 percent of women ages 15-49 used a modern type of contraceptives, and 16 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning, according to UN Population Fund 2015 estimates.
Discrimination: Women do not enjoy the same legal status and rights as men, but citizen women enjoyed many political rights, including the right to vote and to serve in parliament and the cabinet (see section 3, Elections and Political Participation). Sharia (Islamic law) courts have jurisdiction over personal status and family law cases for Sunni and Shia Muslims. Sharia, as implemented in the country, discriminates against women in judicial proceedings, freedom of movement, marriage, child custody, and inheritance. There were no known cases of official or private-sector discrimination in, credit, owning and/or managing a business, and housing. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to both citizen and noncitizen women. Secular courts allow any person to testify and consider male and female testimony equally, but in sharia courts, which govern personal status matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance issues, the testimony of one man equals that of two women.
The 1984 Kuwaiti Family Law Code prohibits marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men. The law does not require a non-Muslim woman to convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man, but many non-Muslim women faced strong economic and societal pressure to convert. In the event of a divorce, the law grants the father or his family sole custody of children of non-Muslim women who do not convert. A non-Muslim woman who does not convert to the religion of her husband is also ineligible for naturalization as a citizen and cannot inherit her husband’s property unless specified as a beneficiary in his will.
Inheritance is also governed by sharia, which varies according to the specific school of Islamic jurisprudence. In the absence of a direct male heir, a Shia woman may inherit all property, while a Sunni woman inherits only a portion, with the balance divided among brothers, uncles, and male cousins of the deceased.
Female citizens are unable to pass citizenship to their noncitizen husbands or their children; however, exceptions were made for some children of widowed or divorced female citizens (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). In August the government awarded citizenship to 180 children of Kuwaiti widows and divorcees. Male citizens married to female noncitizens do not face such discrimination. In May parliament approved awarding loans up to 70,000 dinars ($231,000) for single Kuwaiti women. The law grants a “housewife allowance” to nonworking women age 55 and older.
Women experienced discrimination in the workplace (see section 7.d.).
According to government statistics, women comprised only 14 percent of legislators, senior officials, and managers.
In October the country’s highest court ordered an end to affirmative action for male applicants to medical schools on grounds it is unconstitutional. Prior to this court ruling, female applicants were required to demonstrate a higher minimum grade point average than male applicants. The law requires segregation by gender of classes at all universities and secondary schools, although it was not always enforced.
A limited number of women attained leadership positions in the private sector as heads of corporations, but only one woman served as a minister in the cabinet.
In 2014 the first 22 female employees of the Public Prosecutor’s Office completed their training and became public prosecutors, a prerequisite for appointment as a judge. In August the Supreme Judicial Council ruled that after serving as prosecutors for three years women would be eligible to serve as judges.
Birth Registration: Citizenship derives entirely from the father; children born to citizen mothers and noncitizen fathers do not inherit Kuwaiti citizenship unless the mother is divorced or widowed from the noncitizen father and may then facilitate the child’s application for citizenship. The government designates religion on birth and marriage certificates. The government often granted citizenship to orphaned or abandoned infants, including bidoon infants. Parents were sometimes unable to obtain birth certificates for their bidoon children because of extensive administrative requirements, which prevented such children from accessing public services such as education and health care (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons).
Education: Education for citizens is free through the university level and compulsory through the secondary level. Education is neither free nor compulsory for noncitizens. A 2011 Council of Ministers decree extended education benefits to bidoon. The government requires Islamic religious instruction in public schools for all students. The government also requires Islamic religious instruction for Muslim students in private schools that have one or more Muslim students, regardless of whether the student is a citizen or not. In August 2015 the government allowed 5,000 children of bidoon families to attend public schools.
Medical Care: Lack of identification papers sometimes restricted bidoon access to public medical care.
Child Abuse: There was no reported societal pattern of child abuse. Most cases likely went unreported due to social stigma associated with the disclosure of the practice. A children’s rights law, passed in March 2015 establishing legal protections for abused children, was implemented in January. In November the government opened a hotline for reporting instances of child abuse.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal marriage age is 17 for males and 15 for females, but girls continued to marry at a younger age in some tribal groups. The government reported there were 3,808 married females between the ages of 15-19.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: There are no laws specific to child pornography, because all pornography is illegal. There is no statutory rape law or minimum age for consensual sexual relations, although premarital sexual relations are illegal.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There were no known Jewish citizens and an estimated few dozen Jewish foreign resident workers. Anti-Semitic rhetoric often originated from self-proclaimed Islamists or conservative opinion writers. These columnists often conflated Israeli government actions or views with those of Jews more broadly. Reflecting the government’s nonrecognition of Israel, there are longstanding official instructions to teachers to expunge from English-language textbooks any references to Israel or the Holocaust. The law prohibits companies from conducting business with Israeli citizens, including transporting them on their national airlines.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with permanent physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, or the provision of other government services. It imposes penalties on employers who refrain without reasonable cause from hiring persons with disabilities. The law also mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities. The government generally enforced these provisions. Noncitizens with disabilities neither had access to government-operated facilities nor received stipends paid to citizens with disabilities that covered transportation, housing, job training, and social welfare costs. The government still has not fully implemented social and workplace aides for people with physical, and in particular, vision disabilities.
There is a disability law, and a parliamentary Committee for Disabled Affairs. Under that law the monthly allowance given to the mother of a disabled child or the wife of a person with disabilities is 600 dinars ($1,980), and families of citizens with disabilities are eligible to receive grants worth up to 20,000 dinars ($66,000).
During the year the government reserved a small number of admissions to Kuwait University for citizens with disabilities, and there was regular media coverage of students with disabilities attending university classes. Nonetheless, authorities did not provide noncitizens with disabilities the same educational opportunities, and noncitizen students with disabilities experienced a lack of accessible materials and lack of reasonable accommodations in schools.
Children with disabilities attended public school, but information on whether there were patterns of abuse in educational settings was unavailable. Representatives from ministries, other governmental bodies, Kuwait University, and several NGOs constituted the government’s Higher Council for Handicapped Affairs, which makes policy recommendations; provides direct financial aid to citizens with disabilities; and facilitates their integration into schools, jobs, and other social institutions. The government supervised and contributed to schools and job training programs oriented to persons with disabilities.
Approximately 70 percent of residents were noncitizens, many originating from Egypt, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. Societal discrimination against noncitizens and bidoon was prevalent and occurred in most areas of daily life, including employment (see section 7.d.), education, housing, social interaction, and health care. As part of expanded activity against illegal residents, police stopped, arrested, and sometimes deported noncitizens believed to be using private automobiles as taxis. This action disproportionately affected the noncitizen laborers who could not afford their own automobiles or taxi fares.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Consensual same-sex sexual conduct between men and cross-dressing are illegal. The law punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity between men older than 21 with imprisonment of up of to seven years; those engaging in consensual same-sex sexual activity with men younger than 21 may be imprisoned for as long as 10 years. No laws criminalize sexual behavior between women. The law imposes a fine of 1,059 dinars ($3,495) and imprisonment for one to three years for persons imitating the appearance of the opposite sex in public. Transgender persons reported harassment, detainment, and abuse by security forces.
In August police arrested three cross-dressers in a mall. The police ordered the individuals to have their heads shaved and opened an investigation.
Societal discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity occurred; to a lesser extent, officials also practiced such discrimination, usually upon discovering that a person stopped for a traffic violation did not appear to be the gender indicated on the identification card. Transgender men and women often faced rejection by their families and, in some cases, disputes over inheritances.
No registered NGOs focused on LGBTI matters, although unregistered ones existed. Due to social convention and potential repression, LGBTI organizations neither operated openly nor held gay pride marches or gay rights advocacy events.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Local human rights NGOs reported no accounts of societal violence or discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS, but persons with HIV/AIDS did not generally disclose their status due to social stigma associated with the disease. The Ministry of Health estimated there were 209 citizens with HIV. Foreign citizens found to be HIV-positive faced immediate deportation.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
Unmarried men continued to face housing discrimination based solely on marital status. The law prohibits single men from obtaining accommodation in many urban residential areas. Single noncitizens faced eviction due to a decision by the municipality to enforce this prohibition and remove them from residences allocated for citizens’ families, citing the presence of single men as the reason for increasing crime, a burden on services, and worsening traffic. Although no law prohibits it, single and unaccompanied citizen and noncitizen female residents traditionally are not allowed to check into hotels.