Tunisia will end forced anal exams but won’t stop arresting gay men


Activists have welcomed a commitment by Tunisia to stop carrying out forced anal exams for “evidence” of homosexual conduct.

The country finally agreed to longstanding calls to do so at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday.

“These exams can no longer be imposed by force, physical or moral, or without the consent of the person concerned”, Tunisia’s Minister for Human Rights Mehdi Ben Gharbia told AFP.

He said that while judges will still be allowed to request the procedures in cases in which men are accused of homosexual conduct, the suspect “has every right to refuse, without his refusal being held up as proof of homosexuality”.

Tunisia is among several countries that have used the degrading tests over the last few years. The exams usually involve doctors or other medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus of the accused.

The exams have no medical or scientific value in determining whether consensual anal sex has taken place and are seen by human rights groups as a form of torture or cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment.

According to Amnesty International, the country also agreed at the Human Rights Council to ensure the protection of LGBTQI persons from all forms of stigmatisation, discrimination and violence. It, however, refused to actually legalise homosexuality.

The group welcomed the positive developments but said that it “deeply regrets Tunisia’s rejection of 14 recommendations relating to the decriminalisation of same-sex relations by repealing article 230 of the Penal Code.”

Gharbia insisted that in spite of still criminalising homosexuality the country is “committed to protecting the sexual minority from any form of stigmatisation, discrimination and violence”.

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are illegal in the North African country, with a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Earlier this year, two young men were sentenced to eight months in prison after they were arrested for simply “looking gay”, beaten and subjected to the exams.

In a March 2016 report, Human Rights Watch documented the abuse of gay men and men perceived to be homosexual by Tunisia’s police. Victims claimed that officers had subjected them to beatings, forced examinations, and routine humiliating treatment.

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