A “homosexuality test,” once commonly used by law enforcement officials in countries where being gay is illegal, appears to have experienced a resurgence in Lebanon, despite the Lebanese Order of Physicians decrying the practice as torture.
The practice, which Lebanon’s Daily Star describes as “inserting an egg-shaped metal object into the rectum,” has been described by many as “useless and akin to rape.” The supreme medical body of the nation had called for a ban on doctors performing it, as it not only provided no information as to whether the victim was gay, but also fell under the definition of torture under international law.
Nonetheless, five men are calling for the Lebanese Order of Physicians to sue a forensic doctor on their behalf for having performed the test. According to the Daily Star report, the doctor was hired by the Lebanese police’s “Moral Protection Bureau” to investigate the five men, who were being accused of homosexuality. The men were not charged with any other crime.
The use of this test after being banned two years ago comes as a shock to many, as its ouster from traditional law enforcement exercises was a result of a national uproar against the torturous act. That year, the Lebanese government raided a movie theater in an impoverished district of Beirut, where, they alleged, pornographic films were being shown. After the raid, 35 men were subjected to this “exam.” It is not known what the results were, but the nation cried out for eliminating the test from the country. One news anchor began his broadcast that night with the sentence, “It’s the republic of shame.”
By August of that year, the exams were banned. Homosexuality remains illegal, however, and persecution of LGBT individuals, both in Lebanon and the greater Middle East, persists. An Associated Press report finds that homosexuality is also illegal in Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. Other nations, like Egypt, use laws that are not explicitly against homosexuality to target LGBT individuals for “debauchery.” While the report notes that Lebanon is slightly more tolerant than nations like Iran, it warns that “the pervasiveness of religion in everyday life, along with strict cultural norms, plays [sic] a major factor in how Middle Eastern societies view homosexuality.”
The most tolerant nation in the Middle East is Israel, which allows LGBT individuals to serve openly in the military and hold office. Last month, Tel Aviv hosted the region’s largest gay pride parade, and the United States embassy in Israel broke new ground by raising the LGBT rainbow flag below the U.S. flag in Tel Aviv.