Tunisia | Rape victim jailed for homosexuality

A young man who was arrested for homosexuality after he reported being raped and robbed has been sentenced to jail by a court in Tunisia.

According to the Independent, 22-year-old Anas was on Monday sentenced to eight months in prison for violating Article 230 of Tunisia’s penal code.

The provision outlaws private acts of “sodomy” between consenting adults and is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Anas’ prosecution is a particularly gross miscarriage of justice. He was reportedly lured on Facebook into meeting two young men in the city of Sfax who then attacked and raped him, also stealing his phone and jacket.

He went to the police to report the attack but officers instead arrested Anas on charges of homosexuality. They also forced him to endure an anal examination as “proof” that he had engaged in sodomy.

It’s understood that Anas was sentenced to six months for homosexuality and a further two months for lodging a false claim. The court rejected his allegation that he had been raped and concluded that he had consented to the sex.

The other two men involved in the alleged attack were sentenced to six months for homosexuality, plus two months for assault and theft.

Mounir Baatour, a lawyer and the president of local LGBTQ rights group Shams, said the court ruling had devastated Anas’ family. “His mother has been very affected. She does not stop crying. His friends are all angry.”

The practice of forced anal exams has been condemned by human rights and medical groups around the world. The exams are highly unreliable and constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that amount to torture.

In 2017, Tunisia told the UN Human Rights Council that, in future, anal examinations would only be conducted with the consent of the person and in the presence of a medical expert. Activists argue that this pledge is meaningless as the courts are likely to assume that a refusal to undergo the exam is an indication of guilt.

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 anal examinations, and routine humiliating treatment.

“Tunisia should uphold its commitment to human rights and stop subjecting its citizens to such brutal indignities,” said Neela Ghoshal, Senior Researcher, LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Tunisia’s presidential commission on individual freedoms has called for the repeal of article 230 and a prohibition on forced anal exams. President Beji Caid Essebsi has maintained silence on the matter. He should stand up for sexual assault victims like [Anas]  and for the privacy rights of all Tunisians.”

A petition has been set up calling on the Tunisian authorities to ensure the immediate release of Anas.

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