Outcry against anal exams by police in Lebanon

Rasha Moumneh (Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch)
Rasha Moumneh (Photo courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

Human rights activists are seeking an end to harassment of gay men in Lebanon, where police have staged repeated raids of suspected gay hangouts and forced suspects to undergo anal exams.

LGBT people can face prosecution under Article 534 of Lebanese law, which provides for up to a year in prison for “sexual acts against nature.”

Human Rights Watch said yesterday that the law should be repealed and the Justice Ministry should order an end to anal exams, which are used to try to determine suspects’ recent sexual activities.  The Lebanese physicians’ association recently denounced them as a form of torture — and as “medically and scientifically useless” in determining sexual activity.

Human rights activist Nizar Saghieh, co-founder of the Lebanese legal advocacy group Legal Agenda, called for a clear statement from the Justice Ministry that the exams are banned.

“Forensic anal examinations of men suspected of homosexual contact, conducted in detention, constitute degrading and humiliating treatment,” said HRW researcher Rasha Moumneh. “These ‘tests of shame,’ as local activists call them, should stop immediately – the state has no business punishing and degrading its citizens for consensual sexual conduct.”

HRW also called for charges to be dropped against three men arrested during a raid on a cinema in Beirut on July 28. In a statement, the group said today:

The Internal Security Forces vice squad arrested 36 men during the July 28 raid on a movie theater suspected of screening pornographic movies in the Burj Hammoud district of Beirut, the third such raid in recent months. The men were transferred to Hbeich police station, where they were subjected to anal examinations.

The examinations are conducted by forensic doctors on orders of the public prosecutor to “prove” whether a person has engaged in homosexual sex. The police released all of the men several days later but charged three of them under article 534, partly on the basis of the examinations.

Human Rights Watch said police and doctors abuse marginalized groups in Lebanon through invasive anal and vaginal examinations as a form of punishment, intimidation, and humiliation.  Anal exams of suspected homosexuals are often ordered by Lebanese public prosecutors, the group said. For example, the group said:

In August 2010, a police officer at the Msaitbeh Police Station threatened to physically force a Human Rights Watch researcher and a local activist, who were visiting a detained man charged with “unnatural sexual relations,” to submit to a “virginity test,” in an effort to intimidate and humiliate them.

Sharaf Abu Sharaf, head of Lebanese Doctor's Syndicate (Photo courtesy of Lebanon Daily Star)
Sharaf Abu Sharaf, head of Lebanese physicians’ group (Photo courtesy of Lebanon Daily Star)

Dr. Sharaf Abu Sharaf, head of the Lebanese physicians’ association, announced Aug. 8 that the group is seeking an end to anal examinations, which he said violate the Lebanese law on medical ethics, which prohibits doctors from engaging in harmful practices. He said doctors who conduct the exams will face disciplinary proceedings.

HRW said the exams violate international standards against torture, including the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Lebanese Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi has said he is against the exams. But his ministry on Aug. 5 reissued an order stating that the exams should be conducted only with the consent of the accused, and adding that suspects should be informed that refusal “constitutes proof of the crime,” the Lebanese Daily Star reported.

Lebanon is far from alone in this practice. HRW said Egyptian authorities forced female political detainees to undergo vaginal exams in 2011 as a way to intimidate and silence them. In Iraq, HRW said, courts often order women to undergo vaginal exam to determine virginity. Those exams are often requested by the women’s families, HRW said.

For more information, see the article “Lebanon: Stop ‘Tests of Shame’ ” on the HRW website.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Catholic former ambassador defends LGBTs in Uganda

Zimbabwe police raid office, arrest 44 gay activists