Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon carrying out 'discredited' anal examinations

Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon carrying out 'discredited' anal examinations
Anal examinations to prosecute homosexual men and transgender women are still frequently employed by authorities in Egypt and Tunisia, Human Rights Watch has said, with Lebanon phasing out the practice.
3 min read
12 July, 2016
Men and transgender women have been forced to undergo humiliating anal exams [Getty]

Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon are among at least eight countries in the world that still conduct discredited forced anal examinations on men and transgender women accused of consensual same-sex conduct.

The examinations are used to determine whether individuals have been involved in homosexual relations, and involve doctors or medical staff inserting their fingers or objects into the anus of the accused.

Many of those who Human Rights Watch spoke with said that the examinations were painful and degrading, and some conducted them as a form of sexual violence.

"Forced anal exams are invasive, intrusive, and profoundly humiliating, and clearly violate governments’ human rights obligations," said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch.

"No one, in 2016, should be subjected to torturous and degrading examinations that are based on invalidated theories from 150 years ago."

Discredited idea

The idea that medical staff can determine whether someone has conducted in homosexual relations through anal examination has long ago been discredited by medical professionals and rooted in 19th century theories.

Human Rights Watch's 82-page report "Dignity Debased" is based on interviews with 32 men and transgender women in Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt among other countries.

The UN has described forced anal examinations as "intrusive and degrading" and "medically worthless", amounting to "torture or ill-treatment", while the International Forensic Expert Group said they constituted "a form of sexual assault and rape".

"I felt like I was an animal. I felt I wasn't human," 'Mehdi' a Tunisian student subjected to an anal exam last year told the human rights group.

"When I got dressed, they put handcuffs on me and I went out, feeling completely in shock. I couldn’t absorb what was going on."

Ongoing discrimination

The group said that Lebanon is taking steps to end the practice, but Tunisia and Egypt still rely on this discredited method with great frequency to prosecute people for same-sex relations.

"No one should be arrested in the first place because of their private sexual conduct, but where such arrests do occur, forced anal exams add an extra layer of pointless brutality and abuse," Ghoshal said.

"Every country should guarantee basic rights and dignity to people accused of homosexual conduct, and recognise that the prohibition on torture extends to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Tunisia and Egypt both prosecute people for being homosexual. Last year, a 22-year-old Tunisian man was sentenced to one year in jail after being subjected to an anal examination, sparking protests in the country.

There have also been calls in Lebanon to abolish article 534 of the Lebanese Penal code, which makes same-sex relations illegal.

Egypt has also launched a wave of arrests against gay men in the country, with 11 men sentenced to between three and 12 years in jail in April for "debauchery and incitement to debauchery".