End ‘torturous’ forced rectal tests for homosexuality, says watchdog

A medical watchdog in Tunisia has called for an end to forced anal testing to ‘prove’ homosexuality.

Sex between same-sex couples is illegal in Tunisia, where doctors conduct unscientific, humiliating anal and genital examinations under the guise of finding evidence of homosexual acts.

Police and judges also order these violations, Human Rights Watch has said, despite them being technically against the law.

In a statement released earlier this month, the National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia said it viewed “the practice of a genital or anal examination to verify the nature of the sexual practices of a person without his free and informed consent as an attack on his dignity”.

The organisation called on physicians to let people know that they have the right to refuse such an examination.

At least seven men accused of sodomy under article 230 of Tunisia’s penal code were subjected to anal exams in the towns of Sousse and Kairouan in 2015, according to HRW.

Several of the victims compared the forced anal exams to being raped.

One 22-year-old student from Kairouan told HRW a policeman forced him to do the test through physical abuse including punching and slapping.

In an HRW submission to the United Nations Committee against Torture, the victim said: “It felt painful. I felt like I was an animal, because I felt like I didn’t have any respect.

“I felt like they were violating me. I feel that up to now. It’s very hard for me.”

HRW hailed the medical watchdog’s condemnation as “an important step toward ending degrading, discriminatory, and unscientific ‘testing’ for evidence of homosexual conduct.”

But the organisation said that “because of their unscientific nature, the use of anal exams to test for consensual homosexual conduct should cease altogether, regardless of consent”.

Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT rights researcher at HRW, said: “Tunisian doctors have taken a courageous step in opposing the use of these torturous exams.

But she emphasised that there was more to be done, saying that to “ensure that forced anal testing in Tunisia ends once and for all, police should stop ordering the exams, and courts should refuse to admit the results into evidence.”

The United Nations Committee against Torture reported in June that “several persons” have accepted the examination “under threat from the police, who contend among other things that a refusal would be interpreted as incriminating.”

The committee called on the government to “prohibit intrusive medical examinations that have no medical justification and cannot be performed with the free and informed consent of the persons subjected to them, who consequently will then be prosecuted.”

It added that the government should also decriminalise homosexuality.

In January, a 19-year-old was sentenced to four months in prison for being trans, and last month, two men in the country were imprisoned for eight months for allegedly being gay. https://thepinknews.com/2017/03/14/two-tunisian-men-to-be-imprisoned-for-8-months-for-looking-gay/

In 2015, a 22-year-old man was sentenced to a year in prison for having gay sex.