Two American women facing a lengthy prison sentence in Kuwait on drug charges will be given the chance to appeal their sentence March 7, family members said.
Monique Coverson and her partner, Larissa Joseph, were sentenced in January to 20 to 25 years for drug possession — a trumped-up and falsified charge, according to their supporters. They have arranged for an appeal March 7, according to family members, who believe Coverson and Joseph were targeted for their lesbian relationship.
Coverson, a Detroit native, is a U.S. Army veteran. After she finished a tour of duty in Kuwait, she remained in the country as a military contractor, then took a job in the music industry.
Coverson’s mother, Michelle Jackson, recently told ThinkProgress, “I believe it really had nothing to do with drugs because they had nothing illegal. I do believe it’s mostly their alternative lifestyle in a religious country that is so against same-sex relationships.” In other words, homophobia may be at the root of this strategic attack against this lesbian-identified couple. “She told me, ‘Mom, they planted this on us. We didn’t have anything like that,’” Jackson told Detroit TV station WDIV.
What happened, exactly? Coverson’s sister, Jasmine, wrote in a Change.org petition calling for the couple’s release that police raided the womyn’s home last May and confiscated an ounce a “tobacco-like” substance. Lab tests ultimately determined that it was K2, a synthetic form of marijuana that is legal in Kuwait, she said. They were held without charges for eight months, and then, “the one ounce of legal substance magically turned into one pound of marijuana, and on January 12, 2016, Monique and Larissa were sentenced to 20-25 years in prison,” according to the petition.
Male same-sex relationships are illegal in Kuwait, but the nation’s laws make no mention of relationships between women. In 2013 Kuwaiti officials claimed they had a test to detect whether people trying to enter the country were gay or gender-nonconforming, and that anyone who tested positive would not qualify for residency. There also have been various police crackdowns on LGBT residents, with mass arrests, rape and torture.
Jackson has contacted the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait about Coverson and Joseph’s situation, and is asking people to write to President Barack Obama and to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign on their behalf. At press time, the Change.org petition has received 106,000 signatures toward its goal of 150,000.
It can be tempting to think that Coverson and Joseph’s situation is one that could only happen somewhere else. But there are many new laws in America that discriminate against LGBTQ couples and highlight a worldwide problem.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, a number of states introduced anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2015:
Here are a few of the anti-LGBTQ laws gaining ground in the United States:
“House Bill 757 passed the Senate 38-14 after three hours of debate that was, at times, heated. Last week it passed the House 161-0 — but the Senate version combined it with another more controversial bill. Now the bill blends the Pastor Protection Act, which would enable religious leaders to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, and the First Amendment Defense Act, which critics have said would allow tax-funded groups to deny services to gays and lesbians.” (CNN)
“As expected, state legislatures are preparing dozens of anti-LGBT bills this year, some of which are part of the backlash to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and some of which are a response to the growing visibility of transgender people. One state has already risen to the top with a new record number of anti-LGBT bills, beating Texas’ record of 23 last year. (The Texas legislature does not convene in 2016, or it might have topped its own record.) “Freedom Oklahoma,” the Sooner State’s LGBT advocacy organization, is currently tracking at least 26 different bills that in some way limit, threaten or actively discriminate against LGBT people. Many mirror efforts in other states, but a few are unique and particularly dangerous to the state’s LGBT population.” (ThinkProgress)
“South Dakota is making a name for itself as what may be America’s most anti-LGBT state. The Senate Education Committee today passed a new bathroom bill that would adversely impact transgender students. But that was just one measure in a week full of anti-LGBT actions by state lawmakers. On Monday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 1107, which the Human Rights Campaign called “extreme” legislation that if signed into law would authorize recipients of taxpayer funds to discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender people, and single mothers. Specifically, it would prevent the state from taking any punitive action against any entity that discriminates because of religious beliefs about sexuality, gender, and marriage.” (The Advocate)
Although an American might be quick to judge the laws above as more “third-worldly,” it is clear that these types of laws are still being considered and enacted worldwide, to varying degrees. Although in our country gay marriage is now a nationwide right, it is important to remember that because we live in a Democracy, that simply means that some of us have honored and voted that into existence — not all of us. There are still clearly bigoted people in our country who, like leaders in Kuwait, marginalize and oppress queer and black bodies.
It’s easy to imagine these women being wrongfully incarcerated in our own country, so we must reach out to support their wrongful incarceration when it happens in any country. Black and queer lives matter, even when they are in Kuwait.