In the recent past, EQUAL GROUND (EG) has repeatedly raised concerns about Sri Lankan Judicial Medical Officers (JMOs) conducting forced anal and vaginal penetration examinations on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer/Questioning (LGBTIQ) community, upon their arrests, to prove their “homosexuality.” The Sri Lanka police uses Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code, which criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and “any act of gross indecency” respectively, to arrest LGBTIQ individuals – particularly gay men and transgender women. On several occasions they have then been subjected to forced anal/vaginal penetration exams, to bolster the cases against these individuals.
Following our initial article in the Daily Mirror (03 October 2020), which brought this practice to light, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and EQUAL GROUND issued a joint statement condemning the practice on 20 October 2020. In it, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND said, “The recent evidence of violence and harassment against the LGBTIQ community by law enforcement here is gravely concerning. Sri Lanka must respect its commitment to the UN to protect the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people, including by ending arbitrary arrests and by banning torture and other mistreatment by the authorities.”
This statement caught the attention of local and international media (Daily Mirror, Colombo Gazette, Pink News, Star Observer, Out Magazine, etc). Daily Mirror further published an expose on this practice on 30 October 2020, bringing further attention to the issue.
Human Rights Watch, in its letter to the SLMA, has asserted: “Forced anal examinations, purportedly conducted to substantiate allegations of homosexual conduct, typically involve medical personnel forcibly inserting their fingers or other objects into the anus of the suspect. “Virginity tests” are meant to determine whether a person has had vaginal intercourse. These exams have no scientific validity. Victims describe the exams as painful and degrading. Human Rights Watch considers forced anal and vaginal examinations to be acts of sexual violence. They are also a form of cruel and degrading treatment that can rise to the level of torture, as repeatedly affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and the Committee against Torture.”
Meanwhile, EG has written to the Ministry to Justice and the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA), strongly condemning these practices and requesting relevant authorities to take necessary legal action to forfeit these forceful, coerced, and degrading examinations conducted by JMOs, with immediate effect.
Following these revelations, Minister of Justice, Hon. Ali Sabry, P.C. issuing a statement said that he has been made aware of media reports on this issue. In a Facebook post, he noted that he has requested relevant authorities to refrain from this practice till these events can be properly inquired into.
We hope our concerted media coverage on mainstream and social media has resonated with the Ministry enough to make some ‘real’ changes in the laws as well as the practice of the law – erroneously in most cases such as this – by the police, JMOS, and all licensed doctors in Sri Lanka.