Homosexuality in Kenya
In Kenya, homosexuality is still criminalised and has faced recent witch-huntsTony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

Rights groups have urged the government in Kenya to take immediate steps to ban forced anal examinations of men accused of homosexuality. Under international law, forced anal examinations are a form of inhuman and degrading treatment that may amount to torture, and they represent rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

In Kenya, which is one of 78 countries worldwide that have laws banning sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, the 19th century method is used by law enforcement officials to attempt to "prove" homosexuality.

Appeal challenging use of forced anal examinations

On 4 May, the Mombasa high court will hear a constitutional petition challenging the use of forced anal examinations.

Two male petitioners, identified only as C.O.I. and G.M.N. claim that doctors at Mombasa's Coast General Provincial Hospital, in collaboration with police officers, violated their rights by subjecting them to these examinations and HIV tests in February 2015, while they were in police custody on charges related to alleged homosexual conduct.

"Anal examinations prove nothing, and they accomplish nothing, other than humiliating and demeaning people who are considered moral 'outcasts,'" Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on LGBT rights at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said.

"It's frankly shocking to see such archaic methods used in Kenya in the 21th century (...) The men in the Mombasa case, and dozens of others around the world, should never have had to undergo such a humiliating and demeaning procedure, and governments should prevent this from happening to others in the future."

Examinations may 'constitute rape'

According to the rights organisation, forced anal examinations violate the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights, and the African Convention On Human And Peoples' Rights – treaties that Kenya has signed.

"Under international law and Kenya's Sexual Offences Act, if the exams involve any form of unwanted penetration, they constitute sexual assault and possibly rape," HRW stated on 3 April.

The UN special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, meanwhile, in January described the practice as "medically worthless and amounts to torture or ill-treatment".

Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG), a group of more than 35 eminent forensic experts from 20 countries, also condemned the examinations. Vincent Iacopino, a medical director at Physicians for Human Rights and IFEG member, explained that "anal examinations to detect homosexuality" have no scientific value, are unethical and constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and possibly torture".

In a statement, released on 3 May, Iacopino said the issue has been underexposed and ill understood around the world.

LGBT equality demonstration in Kenya
Public uproar surrounding allegations of homosexuality and pornography has led dozens of gay men and transgender women to flee their homes fearing violenceAntony Njuguna/Reuters