EU criticizes degrading practice of sexual arousal testing for asylum seekers in Czech Republic

Phallometric testing appliance

The EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, has severely criticized the Czech Republic’s use of sexual arousal testing to ascertain whether men who seek asylum on the grounds that they are gay are actually homosexual. She said on Tuesday that this treatment was degrading and interfered with the person’s human dignity. The EU this week sent another warning to Prague, stating that 'concerns still remain' about phallometric tests, which appear to breach the union's Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. The procedure, which involves the measuring of the applicant’s penis’ blood flow while being shown pornographic films, has also come under fire from Czech NGOs dealing with asylum seekers’ rights. I spoke to Magda Faltová of the Prague-based Association for Integration and Migration about the issue and started by asking her how long this form of testing had been in use.

Phallometric testing appliance
“Well, as far as I know, the ministry claims that they have been using it for three years, so since 2007. They used it in several cases only. We had clients who were subjected to this procedure. It wasn’t a big number. I believe it was three cases only.”

And what were their reactions, how did they feel being subjected to this method?

“The problem is that it is part of the asylum procedure. The people did not like it, they felt awkward and also ashamed, but in all cases that we were part of, either as legal representation or when people just consulted it, they decided to go through with it, because they were afraid that if they declined, the procedure would be much longer and more complicated and they might fail in the end to get international protection.”

Illustrative photo: European Commission
In terms of the human rights aspect of this, do you see this as a clear violation of human rights?

“Definitely, even if there is, as the ministry has always been claiming, a consent of the person who was subjected to it. Well, yes, there was consent, but we cannot really talk about free will if they are told: You have to do this, otherwise we won’t believe you. And definitely, this is a very invasive method, it invades the right of privacy and it is not necessary. In all other countries, there are other ways to asses whether the person is a homosexual or if what they are saying is correct and true.”

Just yesterday, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs spoke on the issue. What is the position of the EU on this practice?

Phallometric testing appliance, photo: Czech Television
“I think that the first criticism came in the beginning of this year, from the fundamental rights agency, where it was criticized as a violation of fundamental rights. And this is one follows that very report, I believe. The Czech Republic says that it stopped using this procedure after the intervention of the UNHCR, and that they have not been using it for quite some time. They also said that they are looking for ways to do it differently and are looking into if this procedure really infringes on human rights.”