Young men in Kuwait face a growing number of challenges. The government has taken steps to engage the ‘youth’. But more and more shops, malls and other gathering places are adopting ‘family only’ days where young men alone or with friends are unwelcome.
Whether you’re a fresh graduate or a fresh hire, social life is an important part of life in Kuwait and for many visiting Kuwait’s primary social spaces – malls – are a weekend must do. At the same time, there have been an unsettling number of fights and violent incidents in malls, almost always involving young, unmarried men.
So here we are with an unfair but understandable situation. Take what happened to me on New Year’s Eve. A few friends and I decided to spend the New Year at Souq Sharq. We all were tired from work and wanted to get away from the more crowded places and since we were in the area it was a good choice also beause I’ve been there on New Year’s a few times before when I was younger to watch the liquid clock drain out and start from the beginning again.
But the moment we parked the car, we knew something was wrong. There was a stream of people walking in the opposite direction and none of them looked too pleased. What we didn’t notice at the time was that almost all of them were young men. When we reached the entrance, we were greeted by a couple of security guards blocking our entrance. We asked what the problem was to which he nonchalantly said “Sorry, today is a family-only day. You’re not allowed to enter”.
We were dumb founded. “Familyonly day” is unarguably discrimination. It’s unfair and there’s no recourse. We left. I understand security should come first and that the recent fights have left everyone a bit skeptical of young men. But is it far to tarnish us all with the same brush? Should all young men be denied entry into the public spaces of Kuwait because of a few kids getting into fights? Should half the country’s population – unmarried males – all be labeled troublemakers because of a few?
Not surprisingly, we experienced the same thing again a few weeks later. This time it was at an entertainment park. We wanted to visit the bookshop but were turned away at the entrance, warned that it was only open for ‘families’.
Young men face a variety of such ‘restrictions’. We cannot rent hotel rooms or apartments. Many days in the week beaches and water parks are off limits. We tend to get more police scrutiny and bus drivers even try to avoid having us ride.
Not all the young men of Kuwait are troublemakers. Many of us, in fact the majority, are honest, hard working and decent young men who hope to one day have a family. Maybe when that happens, I’ll be able to go shopping again.