Doctors, medical professionals, and national medical associations should heed the World Medical Association’s October 2017 resolution to end forced anal examinations on people accused of homosexual conduct, Human Rights Watch said today. The General Assembly of the World Medical Association (WMA), an international organization consisting of national medical associations from 111 countries, condemned the use of forced anal examinations to seek evidence of consensual homosexual conduct.
Forced anal examinations, based on long-discredited 19th century science, often involve doctors or other medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into a person’s anus to attempt to determine whether that person has engaged in anal intercourse. The exams, relied upon as “evidence” in prosecutions for consensual same-sex conduct in some countries, have no scientific basis, violate medical ethics, and constitute cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture.
“The jury is no longer out. There is no excuse for governments to continue conducting forced anal exams on people accused of homosexuality,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch. “The World Medical Association has added its voice to an overwhelming consensus that forced anal exams are unethical, unscientific, and unjustifiable on any grounds.”
The World Medical Association resolution calls on doctors to stop conducting the exams. It calls on national medical associations to issue written communications prohibiting their members from participating in them, and to educate doctors and health workers about “the unscientific and futile nature of forced anal exams and the fact that they are a form of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” It also calls on the World Health Organization to make an official statement opposing forced anal exams as unscientific and in violation of medical ethics, which would build on an existing reference that condemns the practice.
The resolution, proposed by the South African Medical Association with the support of Human Rights Watch, has been through a year-long review and feedback process, allowing all members to comment in advance of adoption. It passed unanimously, with two abstentions.
At the General Assembly session, the association also adopted a revised “Physician’s Pledge,” which calls on doctors to refrain from discrimination on a number of grounds, including sexual orientation.