In this report, the Omani Center for Human Rights reviews the ways in which Omani law discriminates against women and LGBT people. Due to the sensitivity surrounding these topics, they are not advocated for enough in Arabian societies.
Oman continues to discriminate against women with respect to marriage, divorce, inheritance, nationality and responsibility for children in its Personal Status Laws. Women’s representation in senior management and leadership positions remains disproportionately low. To date, no woman has ever been appointed as a judge in Oman.
The 2018 revised Omani Penal Code increased penalties for consensual intercourse outside marriage. Article 259 punishes consensual intercourse outside marriage, between men and women, with six months to three years’ imprisonment (previously three months to one year in prison), and at least two years if either person is married (previously one to three years’ imprisonment), if the spouse or guardian of the accused files an official complaint. If no guardian is found, the Public Prosecutor can still file a case and initiate legal proceedings.
The revised penal code also now criminalises non-normative gender expression, making Oman one of the few countries in the world that directly criminalises gender expression. Article 266 provides for a prison sentence of one month to one year, or a fine of 100 to 300 Omani riyals (US$260-780), or both, for any man who “appears dressed in women’s clothing”.
Additionally, while the previous penal code punished same-sex relations only if they led to a “public scandal”, Article 261 of the new penal code punishes consensual sexual intercourse between men with six months to three years in prison. Article 262 more closely reflects the language of the previous penal code, providing for six months to three years in prison for anyone committing sexual acts with persons of the same sex if a spouse or guardian files a complaint.
In September 2018 two men were reportedly sentenced to four years in prison and a fine for cross-dressing and posting photos on Snapchat.
In recent years, international human rights bodies and civil society have taken definitive steps to raise awareness about the problems facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. International and regional human rights conventions protect all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out this key principle, declaring: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. However, homophobic attitudes often prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from fully enjoying their human rights.
Sex education is taboo in Omani society and not included in school curricula, since such topics are often associated with all that is wicked, immoral and abnormal. As a result, transgender adults and children are denied the medical care associated with gender reassignment, putting their physical and psychological health at risk. The many lawmakers who claim to support human rights and the rights of children should therefore take steps to protect the health and rights of these children and adults, by:
- reversing discriminatory laws that isolate the LGBT community and deny them vital support and resources;
- introducing studied measures against bullying and discrimination to protect the LGBT community from mistreatment;
- allowing gender reassignment, and providing the necessary healthcare;
- allowing transgender persons to change their names and gender status on official identity documents;
- no longer shying away from discussing topics in sex education, but instead starting to include LGBT issues in school curricula; and
- promoting a diverse and progressive environment where everyone feels welcome.
 World Report 2021: Oman | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)