Justice Ministry employed Judicial Medical Officers (JMOs) and Sri Lanka Police have conducted degrading anal and vaginal virginity tests on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Sri Lankans.
LGBT people have been subject to these forced anal and vaginal examinations in order for police to find “proof” of their homosexuality when prosecuting them in Court.
Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code must go
Sections 365 and 365A of the Penal Code have been used to persecute LGBT people for consensual relationships. Over the last several years lawyers have represented numerous LGBT people who were subject to forced anal and vaginal examinations by JMOs and the Police. In all the cases referenced, there were no witnesses to any alleged sexual activity and all the accused were fully clothed at the time of arrest.
SLPP MP Premnath Dolawatte has put forward a Bill to repeal and amend these provisions in order to end the persecution of LGBT people.
However, three petitioners claiming to be political activists have challenged the constitutionality of the Bill in the Supreme Court falsely arguing that the amendments proposed will expose children to abuse, spread HIV and is against Sri Lankan culture.
Several child rights organisations, activists and lawyers have challenged the lies of the petitioners in a counter petition and argued that the Penal Code adequately protects children and punishes perpetrators of child abuse. They have criticised the petitioners for spreading a false and dangerous narrative against the proposed Penal Code (Amendment) Bill.
The counter-petitioners have requested the Supreme Court to support Premnath Dolawatte’s Bill. They have argued that the existing Penal Code has had “grave and deleterious consequences to society” and the proposed Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, if passed would “strengthen democracy and human rights” and “remedy a long standing…injustice, the perpetration of which…cannot be condoned in any manner…”.
Gay men whipped with wires by police
In one case, two of the accused were whipped with wires by the police. They were kept in remand custody for several days and only allowed one two-minute telephone call each.
The men’s behaviour was reported to the police as suspicious by a hotel receptionist because they were gay. When the police raided their hotel room, they found the three men fully clothed and having dinner. The men allege that the police used homophobic slurs against them, whipped them and tied them up before taking them to the police station. They were then subject to anal examinations and remanded for several weeks.
This case showed that many LGBT people are unable to even socialise or have friends without being subject to abuse and even imprisonment.
Transgender men and cis women subject to vaginal exams
In another case involving a transgender man and a cis woman, the JMO inserted his fingers inside both of their vaginas. The JMO had not sought their permission before he inserted his fingers and when they screamed out in pain asked whether it had hurt.
In that case, doctors also tried to take photographs of their bodies but were denied by the accused. They were then subject to a further physical examination in front of other male doctors and nurses at the hospital by an Obstetrician & Gynecologist. When they pleaded with the doctor not to repeat the vaginal examination as it hurt, the doctor had laughed and said that he would light a firecracker inside their vaginas instead.
What are anal and vaginal exams?
Forced anal or vaginal exams, which try to find “proof” of homosexual conduct, often involve doctors or other medical personnel inserting their fingers, and sometimes other objects, into the anus or vagina of the accused in an attempt to determine whether the person has engaged in receptive anal or vaginal intercourse. The examinations are degrading, lack any scientific basis and violate all medical ethics.
Anal and vaginal exams have been discredited by world bodies and banned in several countries
The Independent Forensic Experts Group (IFEG), composed of forensic medicine specialists from around the world, has condemned forced anal examinations.
The World Health Organization has also denounced anal and vaginal exams as a form of violence and torture.
In November 2014, the World Health Organization also stated that, “There is no place for virginity (or ‘two-finger’) testing; it has no scientific validity.”
LGBT people are routinely persecuted in Sri Lanka
Case and police records from 2016 evidence the routine imprisonment and prosecution of LGBT people in Sri Lanka for consensual relationships in private. In the last few years, Sri Lankan police have raided hotels, private homes and other locations to arrest people for not only consensual relationships but even friendship.
A police performance report from 2018 indicates that 33 people were arrested and prosecuted for “homosexuality” in 2016 and 9 people were prosecuted in 2018, following such raids. T
he grave crimes extract of the Sri Lanka police show that potentially several hundred LGBT people may have been arrested by the police every year for “unnatural offences” even for consensual relations.