Two American women facing a long prison term on drug charges in Kuwait were likely targeted because of their lesbian relationship, family members say.
Monique Coverson and her partner, Larissa Joseph, were sentenced last month to 20 to 25 years in a Kuwaiti prison for drug possession — a trumped-up charge, according to their supporters. “I believe it really had nothing to do with drugs because they had nothing illegal,” Michelle Jackson, Coverson’s mother, told ThinkProgress. She thinks homophobia played a big role: “I do believe it’s mostly their alternative lifestyle in a religious country that is so against same-sex relationships.” Police raided the women’s home last May and confiscated an ounce of a “tobacco-like” substance, Coverson’s sister Jasmine wrote on a Change.org petition calling for the couple’s release. Lab tests determined that it was K2, a synthetic form of marijuana that is legal in Kuwait, she wrote. They were held without charges for eight months anyway, 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. “She told me, ‘Mom, they planted this on us. We didn’t have anything like that,’” Jackson told Detroit TV station WDIV. Coverson, a Detroit native, is a U.S. Army veteran. After she finished a tour of duty in Kuwait, she remained in the nation as a military contractor, then took a job in the music industry. Male same-sex relationships are illegal in Kuwait, but the nation’s laws make no mention of relationships between women. Any type of same-sex relationship is generally frowned upon in the nation, though, as is any degree of gender noncomformity. 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 in the nation. 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 she is asking people to write to President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign on their behalf. At press time, the Change.org petition has 106,000 signatures toward its goal of 150,000.