LGBT Activists in Uganda Taken Into Custody for Their Protection Subjected to Forced Anal Examinations

Uganda's leading gay rights organization claimed that 16 LGBT activists were subjected to forced anal examinations after being arrested on Monday.

The 16 men were allegedly taken into custody to protect them from a homophobic mob that surrounded the house they were staying in. But then they were arrested under a colonial-era, anti-gay law.

The men, who are members of an LGBT activist group called Let's Walk Together, have been held beyond the constitutionally mandated 48 hours without a court hearing, reports Metro UK.

The country's president, Yoweri Museveni, is known for his extreme homophobic views.

Frank Mugisha, the Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), said the arrests took place in a neighborhood just outside the capital as the men were being hosted by another rights group.

Mugisha described the practice of forced anal examinations as "degrading and inhumane."

"Forced anal exams are invasive, intrusive, and profoundly humiliating, and clearly violate governments' human rights obligations," said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.

"No one... should be subjected to torturous and degrading examinations that are based on invalidated theories from 150 years ago," Ghoshal said.

According to Human Rights Watch, seven countries in Africa and the Middle East still use forced anal exams. These countries include Cameroon, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Zambia and Uganda.

The International Forensic Expert Group, an organization that runs more than 160 torture rehabilitation centers in over 70 countries, describes the forced anal examinations as "a form of sexual assault and rape."

One Tunisian man described the process as being pushed onto his knees, arms restrained, while another man removed his clothing so a doctor could perform the exam.

Doctors are not required to introduce themselves, can allow anyone into the room during examination and have reportedly taken photos of the victims' private areas without consent.

Uganda Pride parade
Under the Ugandan Penal Code, "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" between two males carries a potential penalty of life imprisonment. Isaac Kasamani/Getty

Uganda has been widely criticized for introducing anti-homosexual laws in 2014 which initially aimed to make gay sex punishable by the death penalty.

In response, the United States reduced aid to Uganda in response to the country's first "Kill the Gays" bill, imposing visa restrictions and cancelling military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.

A police spokesman, Patrick Onyango, stated that, based on their medical examinations, it was established that "the suspects were involved in sexual acts punishable under the penal code."

The Independent Forensic Experts Group (IFEG), composed of forensic medicine specialists from around the world, condemned forced anal examinations in May 2016, stating that "the examination has no value in detecting abnormalities in anal sphincter tone that can be reliably attributed to consensual anal intercourse."

"Forcibly conducting anal examinations on individuals is humiliating, demeaning, and, not surprisingly, almost invariably causes significant psychological suffering," IFEG said in their statement.