Tunisia to ban 'forced anal exams' for homosexuality
Homosexuals in Tunisia will no longer have to partake in a humiliating anal exam to determine their sexual orientation, the North African state's minister for human rights said on Friday, after announcing a ban on the practice.
The authorities carry out the tests on suspected homosexuals but "these exams can no longer be imposed by force, physical or moral, or without the consent of the person concerned", Mehdi Ben Gharbia told AFP.
Foreign and local rights groups have condemned the practice as "cruel" and "inhuman".
"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 (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch.
The UN has described forced anal examinations as "intrusive and degrading" and "medically worthless", amounting to "torture or ill-treatment", while the International Forensic Expert Group said they constituted "a form of sexual assault and rape".
Ben Gharbia said judges can still request that a suspect undergo the test "but that person has every right to refuse, without his refusal being held up as proof of homosexuality".
Tunisia is "committed to protecting the sexual minority from any form of stigmatisation, discrimination and violence," he added.
Tunisia's transition to democracy since a 2011 revolution against dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has allowed for open debate on the situation of its gay and lesbian community.
But homosexuality is still punishable by three years in jail under Article 230 of Tunisia's criminal code, which President Beji Caid Essebsi has said would not be repealed.
"Civil society must first be prepared" for such change in the conservative Muslim country, said Ben Gharbia.
Agencies contributed to this report.