Suspicion of having gay sex or relationships is illegal in Kenya and punishable by 14 years in jail. As a result, a group of activists and human rights lawyers in Kenya have been challenging this criminal code and fighting laws that punish LGBT people for being in a relationship or having sex.
One of the most prominent organization leading the issue is the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Nairobi, an organization arguing that LGBT communities are being unfairly targeted. In 2016, the commission received 193 reports of violations, mostly cyber-bullying, blackmail, verbal assault, and physical assault. Other forms of violence and discrimination include eviction, employer termination, or “corrective” rape. Most recently, forced anal exams were still carried out in Kenya despite being considered a degrading form of torture and having no medical merit; while straight people who have anal sex are not considered criminals. Forced anal examinations are usually performed by a healthcare provider at the request of law enforcement officials. These examinations are intended to cause emotional and physical pain and offer no potential benefits to the individual. This could also result in serious mental health concerns such as depression or suicide. This forced homosexuality test is not only a violation of medical ethics but a violation of health equity.
It originated when two men were found and arrested by police because they were thought to be gay. During this time, the court ruled against them and had them get the tests. Little is known about the true prevalence of this practice but the fact that it was codified in legal systems is astonishing. This ruling was reversed in Kenya in March 2018. Many are trying to determine if the ruling on forced anal testing could be an indicator for a turning point for LGBT cases. Promoting equality through health is extremely valuable, especially in this instance, and addressing any barriers could improve the overall health around the LGBT community.
To this day at least nine countries, several of which are in Africa, force anal examinations to investigate or punish alleged same-sex behaviors between consenting men or transgender women. A study from 2016 found that Kenya and several other countries use anal examinations as a means of determining a man’s sexuality. Tunisia, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Cameroon, Lebanon, Uganda, and Zambia, and Tanzania and possibly some others that have reported some instances, such as Syria, are included. Law enforcement officials should never order the examinations since they lack evidentiary value. Doctors should not conduct them and courts should not admit them into evidence.