Tunisia's rape victims still subject to humiliating anal examinations: HRW

Tunisia's rape victims still subject to humiliating anal examinations: HRW
Male rape victims are still subject to humiliating anal examinations by doctors in Tunisia, Human Rights Watch has reported.
3 min read
10 February, 2019
Human Rights Watch reported victims are subject to additional abuse by Tunisia's legal system [Getty]

Rape victims in Tunisia are still subject to humiliating procedures, Human Rights Watch has reported, including forced anal examinations despite pledges by Tunis to end the practice.

Victims of rape have said they were forced to undergo the unscientific and invasive procedure after reporting crimes to police, human rights groups reported on Saturday.

One 22-year-old man, identified as AF, said he was arrested on charges of homosexuality after reporting to local police in the southern Tunisian city of Sfax last month that he was the victim of gang rape.

Police then detained him on charges of engaging in same-sex relations and subjected him to a forced anal examination at a local police station. The results came back as "negative".

Police also combed through his phone and social media accounts to assess whether he had engaged in same-sex relations, but did not come up with any results.

Despite this police still pursued charges against the victim and a court will rule on Monday whether AF is guilty of charges against him, while his rapists walk free.

Same-sex sexual relations are illegal under article 230 of the penal code, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison. 

Anal examinations are a common practice in some parts of the Arab world. Rape victims or men accused of same-sex relations are penetrated with an object or finger to determine whether they "habitually" engage in anal sex.

The procedure has been widely rejected by the medical community as inaccurate, an additional form of abuse for victims, and breaking international law.

Human Rights Watch have found that Tunisian police investigating same-sex relations regularly enter homes without warrants, search through phones, and elicit forced confessions from victims.  

Tunisia has pledged to the United Nations Human Rights Council to end the practice of forced anal examinations but has so far not taken concrete action on this.

The rights group also said that despite authorities claiming the examinations are done with consent, a refusal by victims to agree to the procedure is often viewed as an admission of guilt by police.

"Tunisia should uphold its commitment to human rights and stop subjecting its citizens to such brutal indignities. Tunisia's presidential commission on individual freedoms has called for the repeal of article 230 and a prohibition on forced anal exams," Human Rights Watch said in the report.

"President Beji Caid Essebsi has maintained silence on the matter. He should stand up for sexual assault victims like AF and for the privacy rights of all Tunisians."

Tunisia is known to be one of the Arab world's most progressive countries on social issues, but rights campaigners have said article 230 and the treatment of gay men are still major breaches of human rights.