Tunisia has pledged to ban forced anal and genital torture that ‘test’ for being gay.
While gay sex is still illegal, doctors have called on the government to ban the ‘cruel’ and discredited tests.
And in a mark of progress, the government has appeared to have listened.
Minister for Human Rights Mehdi Ben Gharbia has said these exams ‘can no longer be imposed by force, physical or moral, or without the consent of the person concerned.’
However, judges can still request the suspect undergo the torture.
Tunisia says men can refuse to forced anal and genital ‘gay test’ torture
‘That person has every right to refuse, without his refusal being held up as proof of homosexuality,’ Ben Gharbia said.
He insisted Tunisia is ‘committed to protecting the sexual minority from any form of stigmatization, discrimination, and violence.’
These invasive and humiliating ‘tests’ involve examining someone’s anus to see if they had been penetrated, check for traces of sperm and taking a picture to ‘study’ the shape of the hole. If it is wider, the more ‘likely’ the person has engaged in gay sex, according to the widely discredited test from the 19th century.
Forbidden under international law, they are widely known across Africa as the ‘tests of shame’.
Human rights groups slam tests as ‘torture’
Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International and others have slammed these probe ‘tests’ as torture.
The National Council of the Medical Order in Tunisia also criticized the anal examinations.
Due to their ‘unscientific nature, the use of anal exams to test… should cease altogether, regardless of their consent,’ they said.
Doctors in the Tunisian towns of Sousse and Kairouan subjected at least seven men accused of sodomy under article 230 of the penal code to forced anal exams in 2015, sparking a civil society movement against the practice.
Tunisia keeps three year jail sentence for homosexuality
While these probes have not been banned completely, Amnesty International said this move was ‘welcome’.
However, the government is still committed to keeping the three-year jail sentence for homosexuality.
President Beji Caid Essebsi has said this will not be repealed.
‘Civil society must first be prepared’ for such change in Tunisia, Ben Gharbia said.