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Beginning of End for Forced Anal Exams

Tunisia and Kenya Move to Consign Discredited Medical Procedure to History Books

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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.


It’s shocking that in 2017 people are still subjected to forced anal testing to try to “prove” their sexual orientation. But Tunisia and Kenya are the latest countries to take steps toward ending these archaic and abusive exams, discredited by forensic experts. Tunisia formally accepted a recommendation at the UN Human Rights Council to end forced anal exams, while the Kenya Medical Association has taken a public stance against them.

Tunisia’s decision is the product of pressure by human rights groups, which have documented how the torturous exams only serve to degrade and humiliate people suspected of having had anal sex.

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

Tunisia’s commitment to ban this practice should be applauded. But the government should go further. The country’s justice, health, and interior ministries should instruct their staff not to order or perform anal exams on anyone, even if people appear to “consent.” And if Tunisia really wants to end discrimination and violence against LGBT people, it should take the basic and long overdue step of decriminalizing consensual sexual conduct.

In Kenya, the government has not yet banned the exams, which the Attorney General’s office has defended in court. But this week the country’s Medical Association vowed to discourage any form of forced examination and to tell doctors to respect their professional code of conduct around patient consent if asked to perform anal exams by police.

This vocal opposition from Kenyan doctors is crucial. In Tunisia, and five years earlier in Lebanon, the state followed the lead of the medical community when doctors refused to persecute people in this way.

Kenya and Tunisia offer a ray of hope to victims of forced anal examinations across the continent and beyond. But it’s not all good news: some countries still use them to lock up men accused of homosexual conduct and others, like Tanzania, have recently used these outdated exams for the first time. These countries are on the wrong side of history. Tunisia’s government, and Kenya’s doctors, are leading the charge to end forced anal exams for once and for all. 

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