More than 43,000 people have signed a petition lobbying Tunisia to end forced anal examinations of gay men.
The LGBTQ rights organizations All Out and Shams, the latter of which is based locally in Tunisia, launched a global campaign to stop the brutal and widespread practice, one which advocacy groups have likened to torture. Law enforcement officials frequently subject gay men to invasive procedures designed to “prove” their homosexuality in a country where sodomy remains illegal.
Government minister Mehdi Ben Gharbia vowed to comply with U.N. recommendations forbidding the practice in September. He told the Agence Presse France that gay men have “every right to refuse” the police probe.
But as an INTO report detailed, anal examinations are still being extensively practiced.
“Let me stress that this degrading practice is still used against those accused of homosexuality despite the Tunisian government’s promise to ban it,” said Shams President Mounir Baatour in a statement. “On behalf of all Shams’ activists, I urge the Tunisian government to keep its promise and outlaw ‘anal testing’ once and for all.”
In an October interview with INTO, Baatour referred to Ben Gharbia as a “hypocrite and a liar,” saying that gay men already have the right to refuse anal examinations under current law. The problem is that men detained for violating Article 230 of Tunisia’s penal code, which mandates up to three years in jail for anyone found guilty of same-sex activity, are coerced. Prisoners are allegedly beaten until they sign a paper agreeing to the test.
The advocacy group Human Rights Watch claims that there are at least 10 countries that commonly deploy anal examinationsincluding Kenya, Turkmenistan, and Zambiaand survivors of the practice say that it’s strongly akin to sexual assault.
Prisoners are strapped down to a table while a doctor forcibly inserts either his fingers or a machine inside the accused’s rectum. The latter causes considerable bleeding.
Unlike other countries where same-sex relations are outlawed but rarely punished, Islèm Mejri of the LGBTQ group Mawjoudin We Exist told INTO that gay men in the North African country are “hunted” by officials. Seven men were beaten and harassed in police custody after police raided their apartment in 2015.
“The government hunts LGBTQ people and puts them in prison to undergo anal examinations,” Mejri told INTO in October. It happens all the time.”
Nearly every leading human rights group has condemned forced anal examinations, including the Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International, Human Rights First, OutRight International, and the World Medical Association.
Advocates credited Tunisia with promising to take action on the issue but encouraged them to do more than make optimistic pledges.
“This first step taken by Tunisia is encouraging,” claimed Ifeatu Nnaobi, Campaigns Manager at All Out, in a press release. “But the government should go further and ban this practice once and for all.”
Sign the petition here.