Human Rights Watch has told Lebanon’s Justice Ministry that its use of forced anal medical exams to establish if someone has had gay sex must stop.

The statement comes after the country’s Internal Security Forces vice squad arrested 36 men during a July 28 raid on a movie theatre suspected of screening pornographic movies in the Burj Hammoud district of Beirut.

The men were transferred to Hbeich police station, where they were subjected to anal examinations.

The examinations were conducted by forensic doctors on orders of the public prosecutor to “prove” whether a person has engaged in homosexual sex.

The police released all of the men several days later but charged three of them under article 534 for having gay sex, partly on the basis of the examinations.

Human Rights Watch said on Friday that the Lebanese authorities should drop the homosexuality-related charges against the three men and that it should take steps to repeal article 534 of the Lebanese penal code, which criminalises “sexual relations against nature” and is used to prosecute men for homosexuality.

“Forensic anal examinations of men suspected of homosexual contact, conducted in detention, constitute degrading and humiliating treatment,” said Rasha Moumneh, a Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, based in Beirut.

“These ‘tests of shame,’ as local activists call them, should stop immediately – the state has no business punishing and degrading its citizens for consensual sexual conduct.”

The New York based group urged the ministry to follow the lead of the Lebanese Doctor’s Syndicate. It’s head, Dr. Sharaf Abu Sharaf, issued a directive on August 8 calling for an end to anal examinations, stating that they are medically and scientifically useless in determining whether consensual anal sex has taken place and that they constitute a form of torture.

He added that they also violate article 30 of the Lebanese law on medical ethics, which prohibits doctors from engaging in harmful practices.

The practice is also in violation of international standards against torture and a violation of international professional medical principles.

“These hurtful and degrading examinations should stop immediately, especially now that the Lebanese Doctor’s Syndicate has made clear that they are forensically valueless and constitute a form of torture,” Moumneh said. “The government should be concerned with the security and livelihoods of its citizens, rather than subjecting them to abuse under the guise of determining their sexual practices.”

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