Amid political turmoil, a Kenyan appeals court overturned a lower court ruling and delivered a major LGBT victory: Forced anal examinations of suspected gay men are now unlawful.


Amid an uncertain political period in Kenya, LGBT activists scored a victory Thursday: an appeals court, overturning a lower court’s ruling, held that forced anal examinations of suspected gay men are unlawful.

As we reported in 2016, the shocking procedure of forced anal examinations—still practiced in at least eight countries—is useless as a diagnostic tool, but quite useful as a means to humiliate and entrap suspected gay people.

In theory, doctors examine a man’s anus to see if it has been stretched, strained or cracked, presumably a result of anal sex. In practice, the human anus just doesn’t work that way; it resumes its normal shape, either immediately or after a short period of time. You might as well test a rubber band to see if it’s ever been used.

In September 2017, The Kenya Medical Association released a statement to “condemn and discourage any form of forced examination of clients, even in the guise of discovering crimes.”

What the procedure does quite effectively, however, is humiliate suspects. To strap someone into stirrups and forcibly penetrate their anus is more like rape than medicine. Doctors can even create “evidence” of anal sex in the exam itself. It’s diagnosis, evidence, and punishment all wrapped into one.

That’s why the procedure violates the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Convention on Human and Peoples’ Rights—all of which Kenya has ratified.

Still, in 2016, a court held that the need to gather evidence of a crime outweighed an individual’s rights. That decision was condemned by human rights activists at the time, and was overturned this week.