Rabat – Tunisia has promised to put an end to forced anal examinations on people prosecuted for homosexuality-related charges, said Tunisia’s Minister of Human Rights, Mehdi Ben Gharbia on Friday.
Ben Gharbia did not specify a date for when the policy would be put in force.
Tunisia has routinely subjected convicts for homosexuality to anal tests. “Police take men and transgender women who are arrested on homosexuality-related charges before a forensic medicine specialist, who conducts an anal examination and prepares a report, which is then introduced into court as a form of evidence for the prosecution,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote in a report issued late 2016.
These examinations can no longer be imposed by force, neither physically nor psychologically, said the minister, indicating that “the Tunisian state is committed to protect [its] sexual minority from all forms of stigmatization, discrimination and violence and to prevent all anarchic tests and anal exams.”
However, Ben Gharbia admitted that the practice, which involves doctors or other medical personnel “forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus of the accusedto determine whether or not the person has engaged in homosexual conduct,” will not be completely boycotted.
“A judge will still be able to ask a person charged with homosexuality to do an anal test, but this person will have every right to refuse. The refusal will not be regarded as evidence of homosexuality,”the minister told AFP.
The policy is among the 189 accepted recommendations made by United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in Geneva to improve Tunisia’s human rights conditions that were accepted by the North African country.
In his response to the UNHCR’s proposals, Ben Gharbia rejected the recommendation to abolish article 230 of the penal code that criminalizes homosexual acts, saying that “we must first prepare civil society.”
While HRW assures that “the overwhelming weight of medical and scientific opinion holds that it is impossible to use these exams to determine whether a person has regularly engaged in same-sex conduct,” up until 2015, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, and Turkmenistan all used anal exams to find proof of homosexual conduct.