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Manama: A man in his 20s in Saudi Arabia will this week know his fate after he was caught wearing a traditional woman’s abaya -  the black coverall traditionally worn by women in the Gulf - and covering his face.

The cross-dresser was arrested in a shopping mall in Taef in western Saudi Arabia and was referred to the public prosecution for questioning.

He was reportedly detained after a shopper was puzzled by the attitudes of a black-clad woman.

He later discovered that the woman was in fact a man and alerted members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice who were inside the mall, Saudi news site Sabq reported.

The members checked the identity of the person in black and they confirmed he was a man who was wearing a woman’s clothes.

Strict ban

He was escorted out of the mall and taken to the police who arrested him for cross-dressing. 

He was referred to the prosecution for further questioning and for legal action. No details emerged about his reasons for dressing up like a woman.

Cross-dressing is strictly banned in Saudi Arabia and in the other member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a loose alliance set up in 1981 and comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Several men in these countries resort to wearing the abaya in order to beg for money. The trick boosts their chances of receiving money from people who tend to sympathise more with women seemingly in need.

In 2012, police in Kuwait City arrested an expatriate who disguised himself as a woman to beg for money.

The man who fooled people in the upscale Salmiya neighbourhood in Kuwait City was arrested after a woman who gave him money felt there was something wrong with the begging “woman”.

Her husband alerted the police who rushed to the place and arrested the beggar who confessed to receiving up to 25 dinars (Dh324.80) a day.

In Saudi Arabia, a man begged for five months as a woman before his disguise was uncovered.

The man, wearing an abaya told police that he earned up to 200 riyals (Dh195.82) on a regular day and that his income increased on Fridays as a larger number of devout Muslims headed to mosques.