Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary system. When taken in comparison with other countries in its region, Kuwait generally ranks well in terms of civil liberties, press freedom and judicial independence. Nevertheless, the past few years have seen a notable crack-down on freedom of expression in the country. Kuwait is a member of the League of Arab States (LAS), as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Rating: Grave Violations
This country is found to be declining due to recent prosecutions for “blasphemy” and a general deterioration of freedom of expression post-Arab Spring.
|Constitution and government||Education and children’s rights||Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals||Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values|
Countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Croatia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo, Republic of the, Djibouti, Ecuador, France, Gabon, Honduras, Iceland, India, Japan, Korea, Republic of, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Congo, Republic of the, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Ghana, Guatemala, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Republic of, Kosovo, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sweden, Taiwan, Uruguay, Venezuela
Countries: Austria, Bhutan, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Lithuania, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam
Countries: no countries relate to this boundary condition
Countries: no countries relate to this boundary condition
This condition is unusual in that it is applied in cases where there is some social discrimination, but it is not pervasive or nationwide. This condition is applied when there is sufficient background evidence to warrant the assertion that discrimination is not anomalous but widespread, and this condition may be applied for example even where if there is no legislative discrimination or where the non-religious may have legal recourse against such discrimination. However, societal discrimination (i.e. discrimination by peers, as opposed to state or legal discrimination) is not easily measured, and for this reason the Report does not currently have similar more severe boundary conditions to capture higher levels of social discrimination per se. In principle these may be introduced in future. However, we consider that countries with actual higher levels of social discrimination against the non-religious will generally already meet other higher level (more severe) boundary conditions under this thematic strand.
Applied when overriding acts of oppression by the State are extreme, to the extent that the question of freedom of thought and expression is almost redundant, because all human rights and freedoms are quashed by authorities.
Countries: North Korea
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Switzerland, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Countries: Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Italy, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Countries: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Armenia, Benin, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Republic of the, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Turkey, Uganda
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of, Kosovo, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, Vanuatu
This condition is applied where there are miscellaneous indicators that organs of the state offer various forms of support for a religion, or to religion in general over non-religious worldviews, suggesting a preference for those beliefs, or that the organs of that religion are privileged.
Countries: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
Countries: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of, Laos, Latvia, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe
This condition highlights countries where schools subject children to fundamentalist religious instruction with no real opportunity to question fundamentalist tenets, or where lessons routinely encourage hatred (for example religious or ethnic hatred). The wording “significant number of schools” is not given a rigid quantification (sometimes the worst-offending schools are unregistered, illegal, or otherwise uncounted); however the condition is not applied in cases where only a small number of schools meet the description and may be anomalous, as opposed to being indicative of a widespread problem.
Countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Guyana, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Oman, Palestine, Paraguay, Qatar, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Countries: Angola, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Republic of the, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, North Korea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Singapore, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Finland, Georgia, Haiti, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Yemen, Zambia
Countries: Argentina, Armenia, Belize, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, China, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia
Countries: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kiribati, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tonga, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cyprus, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Denmark, Eritrea, Germany, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Kingdom
Countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
This condition may apply if specifically religious education, religious materials, or specific religious denominations are so tightly controlled that children are in fact over-protected from exposure to religion and are likely unable to explore or construct their own worldview in accordance with their evolving capacities. This condition helps us to classify states (perhaps with secular constitutions) which have criminalized specifically religious beliefs or practices. This condition is not applied if the restricted beliefs or practices are found to be outlawed due to their being of an extremist variety. While this condition does not directly reflect discrimination against non-religious persons or non-religious ideas, it does represent an overall threat to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; such restrictions could spill over to affect non-religious beliefs later; and they pose a risk of backlash against over-zealous secular authorities or even against non-religious individuals by association.
Countries: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Korea, Republic of, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montenegro, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion, and whilst the constitution provides for “absolute freedom” of belief, other constitutional provisions, laws, and policies restrict freedom of religion or belief. Sharia is a primary source of legislation (Article 2), and personal status law is administered by Religious courts.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religious practice, nevertheless it specifies that such practice must not contravene public order or morals and must work in accordance with established customs (Article 35). The government does not recognize Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu or Sikh groups which are not included in the Islamic principle of Abrahamic faiths (ahl al-kitab: Muslims, Jews, Christians). It has also denied the recognition of several Christian groups. The recognition by the state often takes years for approval and is not transparent. The authorities further detain individuals for practising black magic or sorcery, which is considered inconsistent with Islamic law.
In general, the import of alcohol and pork products is prohibited.
The media sometimes includes anti-Semitic commentary or images.
The government exercizes direct control over Sunni religious institutions. It appoints Sunni imams, pays their salaries and finances the construction of Sunni mosques. Friday sermons are monitored and the government prohibits political issues being discussed in them.1https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-report-on-international-religious-freedom/kuwait/
Kuwaiti law does not specifically prohibit proselytism, but individuals may be prosecuted under laws criminalizing contempt of religion.2https://kw.usembassy.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/157/KUWAIT-2018-INTERNATIONAL-RELIGIOUS-FREEDOM-REPORT-ENG-20190621.pdf Nevertheless, the government provides financial support to Sunni Muslims who proselytize foreign residents.
Between sunrise and sunset during the period of Ramadan, eating, drinking, and smoking within the public arena are banned for all people in Kuwait, regardless of their beliefs and nationalities. Penalties for such behaviours include a month’s imprisonment. In 2014 the authorities arrested 19 people for eating in public, including American and Dutch citizens. A Lebanese expat was charged for smoking.3https://www.arabianbusiness.com/19-people-arrested-for-eating-in-public-during-ramadan-557401.html
Islamic religious instruction, largely based on the teachings of Sunni Islam, is compulsory in all public schools for all students and in those private schools that have one or more Muslim students. Non-Muslim students are not required to attend these classes, and no adverse consequences have been reported for not attending. The religious organized education of other faiths is prohibited in public high schools, but practiced privately at homes.
Books containing reference to the Holocaust or Israel are banned and foreign schools are not allowed to teach comparative religion. Schools are required to teach and celebrate only Muslim holidays.
Approximately 70% of citizens, including the ruling family, adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam, whilst Shiite Muslims make up around a third of the population. Whilst some areas have relatively high concentrations of either Sunnis or Shia, most areas are religiously well integrated. The past couple of years have seen an increase in the reports of harassment of Shiite Muslims by Kuwaiti Salafis and Sunni Islamists. There are also small numbers of other religious citizens, such as Christians and Baha’is. Out of the 3.8 million people living in Kuwait, only 1.2 million are citizens. The ethnic minority group of Bidun is denied citizenship and over 100’000 Bidun residents remain stateless in Kuwait.
Migrant workers in Kuwait constitute up to two-thirds of the population in Kuwait, but do not have adequate legal protections, and remain vulnerable to abuse, forced labor, and arbitrary deportation. Under the kafala system (which also exists in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Lebanon) migrant domestic workers’ visas are tied to their employers, such that they cannot leave jobs without their employers’ consent.4https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/kuwait The International Labour Organisation has likened the kafala system to a “contemporary form of slavery”.5https://www.ilo.org/dyn/migpractice/docs/132/PB2.pdf The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation for Kuwait’s migrant workers, many of whom live in overcrowded facilities without access to adequate health care.6https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2020/04/covid19-makes-gulf-countries-abuse-of-migrant-workers-impossible-to-ignore/
The Kuwaiti civil code is based on Egyptian Civil law, Islamic Sunni law and customary law and stipulates that in the absence of any legal disposition, the judge has to refer to the principles of Islamic law. It is mainly in the family code that such legal dispositions are missing and therefore, Islamic law is applied. Shiite citizens may apply Shiite family laws, although a lack of qualified Shiite imams is reported. The government does not allow the establishment of non-Sunni religious training institutions, therefore Shiite imams have to be educated abroad.
In 2007 the minister of education Nouriya Al-Subeeh refused to wear a hijab in the Parliament, which opened a heated discussion about Islamic dress codes.
Women face discrimination in law and practice. There are no laws against domestic violence or marital rape. According to the law a male citizen of any religion transmits citizenship to their children. A Kuwaiti woman requires the permission of her father to marry and by law a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man, whereas a Muslim man is allowed to marry a Muslim, Jewish or Christian woman. The children have to be brought up in their father’s faith and Islamic law is applied in marital disputes.
Since the events of the Arab Spring throughout the Arab world, Kuwait has been cracking down on online media freedoms. Under the far-reaching Cybercrime Law passed in 2015, which imposes prison sentences and fines for insulting religion and religious figures, and for criticizing the emir over the Internet, the authorities have detained and prosecuted government critics and activists.7https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/22/kuwait-cybercrime-law-blow-free-speech
Freedom of assembly and association is guaranteed by law, but these rights are restricted in practice. Kuwaitis must notify authorities of a public meeting or protest, but do not need a permit. In July 2019, authorities cracked down on peaceful protests calling for rights of the Bidun to be respected after the death of Ayed Hamad Moudath, a 20-year old Bidun man who committed suicide after being denied citizenship. Fifteen Bidun men were arrested during the protest and charged with spurious offences including spreading fake news, harming allied countries, calling for and participating in protests.8https://www.ecdhr.org/?p=443 While 12 of the men were released on a pledge of good conduct, prison sentences between life and 10 years in prison were handed to three of the men in January 2020.9https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/01/kuwait-heavy-prison-sentences-of-activists-demanding-rights-of-citizenship/
There are several laws against blasphemy which the government actively enforces, even where the statement being made is seemingly benign (see Highlighted cases below).
Article 111 of the Penal Code states:
“Whoever [broadcasts or communicates] views including ridicule, contempt, or belittlement of religion or religious doctrine — whether it is to challenge beliefs, practices, rituals, or teachings — is punished with imprisonment for a period of time not exceeding 1 year, and a fine not exceeding 1000 dinars, or either of these two punishments.”10http://www.gcc-legal.org/LawAsPDF.aspx?opt&country=1&LawID=4204 (in Arabic)
Kuwait’s 2006 Press and Publications Law prohibits the publication of any material that attacks religions or incites persons to commit crimes, create hatred, or spread dissension. This has been used in practice to prosecute and imprison individuals for criticizing religion.11https://menarights.org/sites/default/files/2019-01/KWT_PressAndPublicationsLaw_EN.pdf The publishing or broadcasting of content, including via social media, that could be perceived as offensive to religious groups is criminalised by the National Unity Law ratified by Parliament in January 2012. The punishment includes up to one year of prison and/or a fine of 1000 dinars. Non-citizens convicted under blasphemy laws are also subject to deportation (the Law of Nationality (15/1959) allows the government to strip Kuwaiti citizens of their nationality and to deport them under certain circumstances, if the person undermines the country’s well being).
Kuwait’s 2015 Cybercrime law12https://www.e.gov.kw/sites/kgoenglish/Forms/CAITLawNo.63of2015oncombatingInformationTechnologyCrimes.pdf (in Arabic) expands the scope of the Printing and Publishing Law of 2006 by applying it to Internet-based media publications. Article 6 imposes penalties of up to a year in prison and a 20,000 KD fine (USD $66,208) for defaming, slandering, mocking, or meddling with “God, the Holy Quran, Prophets, the Noble Companions of Prophet Muhammad, Wives of the Prophet […], or persons who are part of the Prophet’s family” by use of an “information network” or “an information technology.” Article 7 pledges up to 10 years in prison for offenses including “the publication of incitement to overthrow the regime in the country.” While in theory this is a counterterrorism measure, it could be used against human rights defenders calling for political reform.13https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/22/kuwait-cybercrime-law-blow-free-speech According to one source, there are at least 42 individuals currently in prison in Kuwait for various offences under the Cybercrime law stemming from posts made on Twitter.14https://menafn.com/1099538683/Kuwait-Cybercrime-law-sword-brandished-on-neck-of-bloggers-and-golden-egg-hen-for-lawyers
In 2013, Kuwait’s Council of Ministers rejected amendments by the country’s parliament to make blasphemy a capital crime.
There is no explicit prohibition of apostasy, however, there is high societal pressure against conversion from Islam and apostates can lose certain rights, like the right to inherit property from Muslim relatives.15https://humanists.international/get-involved/resources/the-right-to-apostasy-in-the-world/ Moreover, the government does not issue documents stating a change in religion or belief, unless the person has converted to Islam, making apostasy de facto illegal. An apostate can be denied custody of his/her children and a court can declare an apostate’s marriage as void and strip them of their nationality.
The summer of 2014 saw the release of Abdul Aziz Mohamed El Baz (also known as Ben Baz Aziz), a twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian secularist and supporter of LGBTI+ minorities and atheists who had been jailed on blasphemy charges in Kuwait. In February 2013, his employer reported him as a blasphemer after seeing his online writings on religion and secularism, and he was found guilty of “contempt of religions and attempting to spread atheism” and sentenced to one year in jail plus forced labour, a fine, and deportation to Egypt.
Of his atheist identity, Aziz says:
“It’s hard to say that you are an atheist, but it’s harder to criticize religion. I don’t hide my atheism—everyone around me knows about it […] I usually say I’m a skeptic in the beginning, but then I declare that I’m an atheist when I’m sure they’re not going to harm me. One day, I was wrong in my certainty—when I was reported to the police by someone at work.”16thehumanist.com/features/interviews/an-atheist-in-kuwait-interview-with-benbaz-aziz-part-1
In August 2014, human rights activist and satirist, Abo Asam, was arrested and detained by police because one of his tweets was deemed to be “in contempt of religion”. His tweet had accused the Jamiya, from the Islamic Salafi sect of blindly following their religious leader, Hamad al-Uthman. The authorities considered the tweet offensive enough to warrant his arrest.
In April 2016, Kuwaiti academic Sheikha al-Jassem was charged with blasphemy after giving a TV interview in which she asserted that the Constitution of Kuwait should be above the Quran and Islamic law in governing the country. The public prosecutor told her that the person bringing the complaint alleged that he had been “psychologically damaged” by her remarks.
In August 2019, Iranian blogger Shahab Murtadha Ghafouri was arrested over allegations of “insulting God” in a comedy sketch he posted online. The video shows Ghafouri telling a sick hospital patient: “If you go to paradise, tell God to let me enter too.”17https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-shaikha-binjasim It is unclear whether the investigation against Ghafouri was eventually dropped.
“I “partially” came out, most of my family members know, some of my colleagues know, and I sometimes just casually say “I’m atheist” to strangers who work at shops. It did have negative AND positive consequences, it was really bad with my family when they found out. It was very hard on my father especially, you see I’m from a religious Shi’ite family, my dad spends lots of his time with clerics and his religion is his pride. I used to pray since I was 6, and wore the Hijab when I was 9 years old, so it was shocking for him, he didn’t really speak with me for 2 years, my aunts didn’t want their daughters to talk to me, my best friend -then of course- told me that our friendship shames her before her Allah, I was sort of an outcast then.
Now it went back to normal between me and my family, they hope I will someday return to Islam. The colleagues that know about my atheism don’t really talk about it, I think they actually like me, they can see that an atheist doesn’t necessarily have horns and a tail. Also a big positive point! I have encouraged some people to ask questions and some people are now atheists because of me.
However, my family’s “hesitant” acceptance comes with a price, I still wear the Hijab, even though I despise nothing more. Also, being openly apostate isn’t a good idea probably, you see when you’re openly an “apostate” and you wanted to get married you simply can’t, the law forbids you even if your partner is an apostate or a non-Muslim to begin with.”
|↑10||http://www.gcc-legal.org/LawAsPDF.aspx?opt&country=1&LawID=4204 (in Arabic)|
|↑12||https://www.e.gov.kw/sites/kgoenglish/Forms/CAITLawNo.63of2015oncombatingInformationTechnologyCrimes.pdf (in Arabic)|