Source: HRW

Tunisian authorities continue to subject suspected homosexual men to forced anal examinations, which have been classified as torture, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW)

While the North African country's minister of human rights announced in Sept. 2017 that men will no longer be forced to undergo the test against their will, it seems like authorities still adopt the practice.

HRW has condemned such procedures, describing them as "highly unreliable and constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture."

Members of the LGBTQI+ community in Tunisia face prosecution under Article 230 of the country's penal code, which punishes same-sex intercourse with up to three years in prison, or Article 226, which criminalizes "harming public morals."

According to HRW, Tunisian authorities have been confiscating the phones of men they suspect to be homosexual. They would search through their phones and pressure them to undergo anal tests and confess to homosexual activity.

Among other human rights violations that take place in police custody, arrestees are often denied access to legal representation.

Such anal exams are often dubbed the "egg test," as an egg-sized object or an actual egg are inserted into the anus. The practice has been defined as torture by activists and numerous international organizations.

Additionally, rights groups and medical organizations have stressed that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence shows that the test cannot accurately determine whether an individual has engaged in same-sex intercourse.

HRW spoke with several men who have faced prosecution for same-sex conduct in the past two years.

One man told the organization he was filing a complaint of gang rape when he was forced to undergo an anal test to determine whether he was "used to practicing sodomy."

Another interviewee, a 17-year-old who has been arrested on sodomy charges three times, said he was subjected to an anal examination and forced to undergo conversion therapy at a juvenile detention center. 

Tunisia director at HRW, Amna Guellali, condemned such practices, saying: 

"The Tunisian authorities have no business meddling in people’s private sexual practices, brutalizing and humiliating them under the guise of enforcing discriminatory laws."

The organization has thus called upon the Tunisian parliament to repeal laws criminalizing same-sex activity. It also urged the Justice Ministry to take action against the ill-treatment of people arrested based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Last year, Tunisia formally accepted a United Nations Human Rights Council recommendation to end forced anal exams.

Human Rights Minister Mehdi Ben Gharbia reportedly said at the time that while judges would still be able to request suspected homosexuals to undergo the test, "that person has every right to refuse, without his refusal being held up as proof of homosexuality."

"This stance is not credible because trial courts can presume that a refusal to undergo the exam signals guilt," according to HRW.

Activists are paving the way for change

While the community continues to struggle in the country, activists have been working hard to raise awareness on queer rights and pave the way for change.

In January 2018, Tunisia launched its first-ever queer film festival titled Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival, which featured 12 short and medium-length films from both inside the country and across the Middle East and North Africa.

Last December, an LGBTQI+ radio station titled Radio Shams made international headlines after debuting in the country, creating a platform for the community's stories to be told.

Similarly, last November, Upon the Shadow, a documentary directed by Nada Mezni Hafaiedh, was screened at the Carthage Film Festival. The documentary tells the stories of the country's sexual minorities.