Human rights groups say that at least six men in Uzbekistan have been forced to undergo anal tests to prosecute them for consensual same-sex relations.
According to the organisations, the incidents – which constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that can amount to torture – took place between 2017 and 2021.
In the most recent case, under orders from Internal Affairs officials, doctors subjected two men to forced anal exams in early 2021.
A Tashkent court sentenced both men to two years under house arrest, in part on the basis of medical reports purporting to find evidence of same-sex conduct. The men, who had lived together before the arrest, were ordered to serve their sentences in cities 500 kilometres apart and have been prohibited from using the internet.
Article 120 of the Uzbekistan criminal code punishes consensual same-sex conduct between men, a “crime” carried over from Uzbekistan’s Soviet past, with up to three years in prison.
“Forced anal examinations, and their use in seeking convictions for consensual same-sex conduct, are an appalling violation of basic rights that diminishes Uzbekistan’s efforts to make its poor human rights record a thing of the past,” said Neela Ghoshal, associate LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Uzbek government has been vocal about its intent to make human rights reforms, yet persists in using a discredited, abusive procedure that amounts to torture.”
The Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity (ECOM) and the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) have documented at least four other cases between 2017 and 2020 in which men were subjected to forced anal exams, indicating a worrying pattern, the organizations said. One of the victims was sentenced to a year and a half of house arrest in 2020, while another was sentenced to prison time.
Forced anal exams, conducted purportedly to find “proof” of homosexual conduct, often involve doctors or other medical personnel inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus of the accused without their consent, in an attempt to determine whether the person has engaged in receptive anal intercourse. The World Health Organization has denounced the exams as a form of violence and torture.
The World Medical Association has called on medical professionals to stop conducting the exams, saying that it is “deeply disturbed by the complicity of medical personnel in these non-voluntary and unscientific examinations, including the preparation of medical reports that are used in trials to convict men and transgender women of consensual same-sex conduct.”
There is clear medical consensus that such antiquated theories lack any scientific basis. The Independent Forensic Experts Group (IFEG), composed of forensic medicine specialists from around the world, has condemned forced anal examinations, stating that “The examination has no value in detecting abnormalities in anal sphincter tone that can be reliably attributed to consensual anal intercourse.”
Men in Uzbekistan who engage in consensual same-sex sexual conduct face arbitrary detention, prosecution, and imprisonment as well as homophobia, threats, and extortion. The Uzbek government acknowledged in April, in response to a media inquiry, that more than 40 men were convicted under the law between 2016 and 2020.
Only two states that were part of the former Soviet Union, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, still criminalise consensual same-sex conduct. Turkmenistan has also carried out forced anal examinations in at least one case that Human Rights Watch documented.
“Uzbekistan should uphold its international human rights obligations by immediately banning forced anal exams, which the president can do with the stroke of a pen,” said Yuri Yoursky, human rights and legal issues coordinator at the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity.
“The government should follow up by removing antiquated criminal code provisions against consensual sexual relations, which violate human rights on face value and contribute to other violations such as the forced anal exams.”