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In Saudi Arabia, deviating from traditional gender norms is considered a criminal offense under Sharia law. This encompasses various aspects such as social behavior, medical interventions, or surgical procedures to transition. Although there is no explicit legislation on this matter, arrests and severe punishments, including corporal retribution and incarceration, are common. Gender-affirming healthcare is only permitted for intersex individuals, while there is no legal recognition of gender for transgender individuals. The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and the Issuing of Fatwas strongly opposes gender-affirming care. They outright reject such practices and suggest prayer as a means to alleviate gender dysphoria.

Defacto: Saudi law is heavily influenced by Sharia and does not possess a codified penal code. Although there is no explicit criminalization of social, medical, or surgical transition in written texts, gender nonconformity is effectively criminalized according to a specific legal article:

المادة الـ 38 للحكم الصادر بالمرسوم الملكي رقم أ/90 وتاريخ 27/8/1412 هـ : 

لا جريمة ولا عقوبة إلا بناء على نص شرعي أو نص نظامي

This law opens diverse individuals to prosecution based on Sharia, especially relying on Hadith: 

1/1631- عن ابنِ عبَّاسٍ رضي اللَّه عَنْهُما “لَعنَ رسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ المُتَشبِّهين مِن الرِّجالِ بِالنساءِ، والمُتَشبِّهَات مِن النِّسَاءِ بِالرِّجالِ” رواه البخاري.

2/1632- عنْ أَبي هُريْرةَ  قَالَ: “لَعنَ رسُولُ اللَّه ﷺ الرَّجُلَ يلْبسُ لِبْسةَ المرْأةِ، والمرْأةَ تَلْبسُ لِبْسةَ الرَّجُلِ” رواه أَبُو داود بإسنادٍ صحيحٍ.

Saudi Arabia is currently in the process of enacting its inaugural written penal code. The preliminary version of this legal document purportedly incorporates the explicit prohibition of garments that resemble those typically worn by individuals of the opposite gender (commonly referred to as “crossdressing”), with a prescribed penalty of three years’ imprisonment.

Even in the absence of explicit criminalizing legislation, Sharia law is enforced in Saudi Arabia, resulting in the apprehension of numerous individuals who identify as transgender on charges related to crossdressing. These arrests are typically documented and disclosed by Saudi authorities and news agencies; however, it remains uncertain as to whether the apprehended individuals themselves identify as transgender or simply exhibit non-conforming gender expressions.

There is no explicit reference to the legal recognition of gender for transgender individuals within the text of the legislation. The legal provisions pertaining to modifications in civil status, such as name changes, are rigorously stipulated in accordance with Sharia law.

 The criteria for amending one’s information in the civil registry are stringent and necessitate the approval of numerous authorities, thereby precluding any avenues for gender recognition for transgender individuals.

“When changing the gender from male to female or vice versa after registering it for medical reasons, the following steps must be taken:

(a) Submitting a request to change the name and gender of the person concerned, or their guardian;

(b) Proof of gender according to a medical report from a medical committee approved by the Ministry of Health;

(c) After a decision is issued by the competent committee approving the amendment procedure, all amendments shall be made in their civil documents through the cancellation of previous documents by inserting the new modification with a new number and date”.

No known cases of attempts to obtain legal gender recognition in Saudi Arabia have been found.

Restricted: Gender affirming healthcare is not permitted in Saudi Arabia for transgender people. In fact, it is restricted by the following legal text: 

 Cases of gender dysphoria are among the most challenging and complex medical ones. Individuals diagnosed with this condition are the ones who seek sex change procedures the most fervently. However, such procedures or treatments for the purpose of sex change are prohibited. Treatment plans should be formulated on a case-by-case basis by mental health professionals within the Ministry

Given that Saudi Arabia is predominantly governed by Sharia law, it is essential to reference the Fatwas pertaining to transgender identities and individuals in the kingdom. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia refers to the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas, which is presided over by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.

  1. Men are superior to women, suggesting that she has been granted a certain degree of preference due to her male biological makeup.
  2. Corrective procedures are limited in their ability to enable her to fully embody her identified gender, primarily due to their inability to replicate a fully functional genital system, and they pose risks to the individual seeking care rather than alleviate gender dysphoria.
  3. If, and only if, there are discernible physical manifestations of femininity, it may be permissible to consider utilizing medical and surgical means to enhance and align one’s outwardly feminine sexual characteristics. However, it is emphasized that this should be approached as a means of “sex correction” rather than a complete “sex change.”
  4. The solution for gender dysphoria is prayer.