International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) demanded that anal examinations on men and transgender women accused of consensual same-sex conduct be banned. The organisation also asserted that heads of state and legal institutions should take the necessary legal steps to eliminate this practice.
Egypt, along with Cameroon, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and Zambia, are the focal points of the report, which was published on Tuesday. The 82-page report, titled “Dignity Debased: Forced Anal Examinations in Homosexuality Prosecutions”, bases its conclusions and recommendations on interviews with victims from the aforementioned countries, as well as media and research reports highlighting the abuse.
The controversial examinations often take place to identify whether the examined subject habitually practices anal sex.
In Egypt, the practice came to light following the “Queen Boat arrests” in 2001 when dozens were arrested from the private nightclubs on allegations of being gay. Legally, 52 men were charged with debauchery, and were taken to the Forensic Medicine Authority.
The incident was the largest involving homosexual behaviour in Egyptian history. The case was aired on TV and the press was allowed to enter the High State Security Court to cover the incident. One of the defendant’s lawyers was Farid Al-Deeb, the current lawyer of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his sons.
“Prosecutors routinely refer men who have been arrested to state forensic doctors for a forced anal examination,” said researcher Scott Long. “The naked, humiliated subject is made to bend over, while multiple doctors—looking for ‘signs of sodomy’—dilate, peer into, and in some cases insert objects into the man’s anal cavity.”
The Forensic Medicine Authority, HRW said, relies on theories popularised by an 1857 French medical text by Auguste Ambroise Tardieu, who argued that a “habitual pederast” who was sexually “passive” (receptive, or a “bottom”) could be identified by different signs, one of which is the “extreme dilation of the anal orifice”.
“Some men report that doctors visually examined their anuses, while others say that doctors placed fingers or other objects inside them,” the report added.
Homosexuality is not expressly forbidden by Egyptian law, but serious attempts have been made to punish people accused of it. In those cases, authorities have cited charges of “violating the teachings of religion and public morals”.
The charges are often applied to Egyptians suspected of such activities, while foreign suspects are often detained and then deported.
Over the past two years, dozens have also been arrested on the same charge, in various cases, and were subjected to the same practice.
In December 2014, eight men were given one-year prison sentences for allegedly taking part in a gay marriage ceremony on a Nile boat.
In January 2015, a Cairo court acquitted 26 defendants accused of homosexual activities in a bath house. The case drew international criticism for the televised police sting on the men, led by controversial TV presenter Mona Iraqi. Later, one of the men reportedly set himself on fire despite the acquittal, due to what he said were intense social attacks on his person.
“Forced anal exams are invasive, intrusive, and profoundly humiliating, and clearly violate governments’ human rights obligations,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights programme at HRW. “No one, in 2016, should be subjected to torturous and degrading examinations that are based on invalidated theories from 150 years ago.”
HRW recommended in its report that state institutions handling the Ministry of Justice “should prohibit judges and magistrates from admitting the results of anal examinations into evidence in cases involving charges of consensual same-sex conduct”. It also called on medical institutions to “prohibit medical personnel from conducting anal examinations”.