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(Geneva) – Forced anal examinations on men and transgender women accused of consensual same-sex conduct have been reported in at least eight countries in the last five years, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. These examinations lack evidentiary value and are a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that may in some cases amount to torture.

The 82-page report, “Dignity Debased: Forced Anal Examinations in Homosexuality Prosecutions,” is based on interviews with 32 men and transgender women who underwent forced anal examinations in Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Zambia. The examinations, which have the purported objective of finding “proof” of homosexual conduct, often involve doctors or other medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus of the accused. Victims of forced anal testing told Human Rights Watch that they found the exams painful and degrading; some experienced them as a form of sexual violence.

Read a text description of this video

Neela Ghoshal
Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch

We’ve been investigating the use of forced anal examinations on men, and transgender women who are suspected of homosexuality. We found that in at least 8 countries around the world, police colluding with doctors subject people who are suspected of homosexuality to these horribly humiliating exams.

Underwent forced anal exam

A policeman pulled down my trousers and put me on top of the desk, while another one was holding me by the arms. The doctor first inserted his finger and later put a device inside me. It was like a straw. He inserted it for a minute and a half or two minutes.

Ghida Frangieh
Lawyer and activist against anal exams

The doctors are looking to see what is the shape of the person’s anus, or the person’s rectum. They believe that there is scientific evidence that if someone is engaged in anal sex, the evidence will show based on visual observation.

Underwent forced anal exam

The police said they would put me in jail after proving that I’m homosexual. Then I was taken to the doctor’s room. A policeman followed me into the room.

Underwent forced anal exam

I had to bend, bend straight and they putting in fingers like this and moving it down, that’s how it was you know. I was really afraid of being beaten by them and I felt they could slap me again and, I had no choice to deny it and, I just had to admit it and do it the way they wanted it to be done yeah.

Lawrence Mute
African Commission for Human and People’s Rights

For police officers to ask that test be done forcibly on individuals, just you know in order to prove that they may have participated in a homosexual act. I think that it’s not acceptable. And in fact, that sort of evidence, even where it’s collected, is completely unreliable.

Dr Sami Kawas
Forensic doctor

Anal exams can not tell you if you’re homosexual or not, whether you’re passive or you’re active, this is just the biggest lie ever created in the history of medicine. You can’t prove a person is gay through any of those exams at all.

Nicholas Opiyo
Human Rights Lawyer

Executive Director of Chapter Four Uganda

As a a lawyer I just think that the use of forced or non consensual anal exams is torture, it is degrading, it is inhuman. More especially given the fact that the methods used for carrying out these exams are unscientific and it appears calculated simply to abuse the dignity of the people who are being interviewed.

Neela Ghoshal
Senior Researcher, Human Rights Watch

These countries should look to the fact that, given that prohibiting same sex conduct is a violation of international law, they should take every step possible to ensure the people who are arrested under these kinds of laws are not subjected to additional forms of cruel inhumane and degrading treatment that further violate their rights.

Underwent forced anal exam

They [anal exams] should not exist because the way they examined me, as I told you, made me feel I was an animal.


“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 program 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.”

The exams are rooted in discredited 19th century theories that homosexuals can be identified by the tone of the anal sphincter or the shape of the anus. International forensic medicine experts have found that the exams are useless, in addition to being cruel and degrading. The conclusion was shared even by several medical professionals Human Rights Watch interviewed who themselves had conducted anal exams.

English translation of poster text: Is it possible to refuse an anal test? From a legal point of view: It is possible to refuse an anal test when examined by a forensic doctor. But the reality is different. The victims often “accept” the test for fear of being tortured, because of their young age, or because they are unaware of their rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  (c) Shams 2015

International human rights law prohibits torture as well as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Those prohibitions are explicitly reflected in the domestic laws of countries that have nonetheless allowed forced anal exams to take place. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment has found that the exams are “intrusive and degrading” and “medically worthless,” amounting to “torture or ill-treatment.” The International Forensic Expert Group describes them as “a form of sexual assault and rape.”

Medical personnel who voluntarily conduct forced anal exams violate international principles of medical ethics, including the prohibition on medical personnel participating in any way in acts of torture or degrading treatment.

“I felt like I was an animal. I felt I wasn’t human,” said “Mehdi,” a Tunisian student subjected to an anal exam in December 2015. “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.”

“Louis,” who underwent a forced anal examination in Cameroon in 2007, at age 18, told Human Rights Watch nine years later: “I still have nightmares about that examination. Sometimes it keeps me up at night when I think about it. I never thought a doctor could do something like that to me.”

Some countries where authorities have used forced anal exams in the past, most notably Lebanon, have taken steps to end the practice. But others, including Egypt and Tunisia, rely on them with great frequency in prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct. The use of forced anal examinations appears to be a recent phenomenon in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.

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

Senior LGBT rights researcher

In Kenya, a disappointing High Court decision in June 2016 upheld the constitutionality of the exams. The judge found that the petitioners, two men who had been arrested on “unnatural offenses” charges and subjected to anal exams while in police custody, had consented to them. Petitioners said they were not informed about the tests and agreed only under duress while in police custody. The decision has been appealed.

All countries should ban the practice of forced anal examinations, and international and domestic human rights and health institutions should vigorously and vociferously oppose their use, Human Rights Watch said.
“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 recognize that the prohibition on torture extends to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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