During a raid on a porn cinema in Beirut's Bourj Hammoud district on July 28, police arrested dozens of men who were then subjected to invasive anal exams to provide evidence of homosexuality, Lebanon's The Daily Star writes.
The raid sparked fierce criticism from physicians, politicians and in the media. "It's the republic of shame," an anchor of the of the privately-owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) said during the network's nightly broadcast on July 31.
According to the BBC, the anchor's protest was picked up and quickly echoed via social networking sites.
Lebanon does not explicitly outlaw homosexuality, but Article 534 of the penal code states that "sexual intercourse contrary to nature" is punishable by up to one year in prison, according to Helem, the first openly gay rights group operating in the region. The organization says that Article 534 is used by the Lebanese ruling classes to criminalize homosexuality.
Lebanese Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi told the BBC he believed the tests were "totally unacceptable" from a "humanitarian point of view." He also asked the country's prosecutor-general for clarifications.
The medical basis for the homosexuality test is unclear. The head of the Lebanese Association for Forensic Science Dr. Hussein Chahrour, who has been conducting examinations since the 1990s, told the BBC that the tests "prove absolutely nothing."
"Their scientific value is nil," Chahrour said. "I just implement the orders of the office of the prosecutor-general."
The prosecutor-general has since reissued a letter that reminds prosecutors they must get permission before ordering the test. However, the letter also states that refusal to comply can be used "as evidence of homosexuality."
The Daily Star reports that as of Tuesday, Lebanon's Order of Physicians has issued its own letter telling doctors they will face disciplinary measures if they carry out the anal exams.
“Such techniques do not give the desired result and constitute a gross violation of the rights of persons who are subject to it without their consent,” reads the circulation.
A group calling itself the Gay-Straight Alliance in Lebanon has sponsored a petition to abolish Article 534. As of Thursday morning, the petition had received 2,487 signatures. The group also has a Facebook page.
On its website, Helem said it is contemplating to hold a march on Aug. 10 in front of the Syndicate of Physicians and the Ministry of Justice to protest the practice.