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Flogging for fashion? Cross-dresser faces prison or lashing in Saudi Arabia

A man from Saudi Arabia has been arrested and faces trial for wearing women’s clothes in a public place. He could be sentenced to up to six months in prison or a public flogging.

The man in his 20s wearing an abaya – traditional Muslim women’s clothing compulsory for all women in Saudi Arabia – was arrested in a shopping mall in the city of Taef in western Saudi Arabia. 

Puzzled by his appearance, one of the visitors followed him and discovered that he was a man. The shopper subsequently reported him to Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice representatives who were inside the shopping center.

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The officers checked the cross-dresser’s identity and confirmed that he was really a man. He was then expelled from the mall and taken into police custody. The motives for the cross-dressing remain unknown.

A judgment will be passed next week and the man could face up to six months imprisonment or a public lashing.

Cross-dressing is prohibited in the Gulf States, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

However, some men in these countries resort to wearing abaya in order to beg for money, as they believe that people tend to give more money to female beggars. One such man in Saudi Arabia had been begging for five months, earning about 50 dollars per day, before he was arrested.