Cruel, debunked anal exams used in homosexuality prosecutions must end, Uzbekistan told

Human rights groups have called for an urgent ban on “cruel” anal examinations used in homosexuality prosecutions in Uzbekistan.

The country is one of two former Soviet Union states that still bans same-sex sexual activity, and authorities use the examinations to gather bogus “evidence” in prosecuting gay men.

On Thursday (5 August), nine human rights groups – Council for Global Equality, the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity, Freedom Now, Human Dignity Trust, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, ILGA-Europe, the International Partnership for Human Rights, and Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) – spoke out against the practice and urged Uzbekistan president Shavkat Mirziyoyev to immediately pass a ban.

The exams usually see a doctor insert fingers or other objects into the person accused of homosexuality against their will. There is no evidence that the examinations can provide proof of receiving anal sex.

As well as the obvious human rights violations involved, the Independent Forensic Experts Group (IFEG) has also debunked the science behind the horrific practice, explaining: “The examination has no value in detecting abnormalities in anal sphincter tone that can be reliably attributed to consensual anal intercourse.”

According to the human rights groups, at least six men have been subjected to forced anal examinations in Uzbekistan since 2017.

Neela Ghoshal, associate LGBT+ rights director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Forced anal examinations, and their use in seeking convictions for consensual same-sex conduct, are an appalling violation of basic rights that diminishes Uzbekistan’s efforts to make its poor human rights record a thing of the past.

“The Uzbek government has been vocal about its intent to make human rights reforms, yet persists in using a discredited, abusive procedure that amounts to torture.”

The banning of forced anal examinations would be a small first step in ameliorating the deep suffering endured by the LGBT+ community in Uzbekistan, but in a country where homosexuality is punishable with up to three years in prison, it is clearly not enough.

Yuri Yoursky, human rights and legal issues coordinator at the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity, said: “Uzbekistan should uphold its international human rights obligations by immediately banning forced anal exams, which the president can do with the stroke of a pen.

“The government should follow up by removing antiquated criminal code provisions against consensual sexual relations, which violate human rights on face value and contribute to other violations such as the forced anal exams.” 

Politicians in Uzbekistan want to ban speaking up for LGBT+ rights

Judging by the recent actions of Uzbekistan’s government, it seems highly unlikely that the country will legalise homosexuality any time soon.

In April, 2021, it was revealed that a draft law in Uzbekistan would add to Article 120 of the country’s criminal code which bans gay sex, going even further to describe same-sex sexual relations as a crime “against family, children and morality”.

But even criticising the country’s ban on homosexuality could become illegal.

The draft laws being considered could also ban “disrespect for society, the state, state symbols (national and universal values)” as well as any call to public protest “in violation of the established order”.