A Tunisian court sentenced two men accused of sodomy to two years in prison. The decision violates their rights to privacy and nondiscrimination under international law and Tunisia’s 2014 constitution. The police also attempted to subject the defendants to an anal exam, apparently to use as evidence in the case.
Police arrested the two men, both 26, on suspicion of same-sex conduct in Le Kef, a city 175 kilometers southwest of Tunis, after one of them filed an unrelated complaint against the other. The prosecutor of the Kef First Instance Tribunal charged the men with sodomy under article 230 of the penal code, which punishes consensual same-sex conduct with up to three years in prison. Hassina Darraji, the lawyer who took on the men’s defense for the upcoming appeal, told Human Rights Watch the defendants told her they had refused the police’s demands that they undergo an anal exam.
During Tunisia’s 2017 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing at the UN Human Rights Council, in response to the recommendation from several countries, Tunisia formally accepted the recommendation to end forced anal examsas a method of “proving” homosexuality.
Furthermore, the tests are of no scientific or evidentiary value in proving homosexuality. Indeed, such examinations, when forcible, are intrusive, invasive, and amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that violates international law. State-sponsored forcible anal exams violate medical ethics and have been recognized as torture by the UN Committee Against Torture.
Tunisia’s parliament should repeal penal code article 230, and the Justice Ministry should direct public prosecutors to abandon prosecutions under article 230 and issue a directive ordering prosecutors to stop sending detainees for anal examinations as part of police investigative procedures to determine suspects’ sexual behavior.