EU says Czech “arousal” test for gay asylum seekers could violate human rights convention

Illustrative photo: European Commission

The European Union’s top human rights agency has criticised the Czech Republic over a procedure aimed at ascertaining whether men who seek asylum on the grounds that they are gay are actually homosexual. The EU says the “sexual arousal” test could violate its convention on human rights.

Phallometric testing appliance
What is known as phallometric testing has been carried out in the Czech Republic on gay men who have claimed asylum on the grounds that they could face persecution in their own countries.

The blood flow in their penis is measured as they view pornography and other images, with the aim of ascertaining whether they are indeed homosexual.

It came to light that the test was being used in this country when an Iranian man seeking asylum in Germany said he had been subjected to it.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said in a recent report that the Czech Republic was the only EU state known to be using the test, which it said could breach a convention barring torture and humiliating treatment. Blanca Tapia is the body’s spokesperson.

Illustrative photo: European Commission
“In this specific case of using this phallometric testing, the problem is actually that one can infer that there is an element of humiliation when this test is used. Because it involves great exposure to very intimate sexual feelings. With this test what you are actually measuring is the sexual response of a gay man.”

Radio Prague’s Russian section spoke to a man named Sergei Cherveda who applied for and won asylum in the Czech Republic on the grounds that he was homosexual. He described undergoing this kind of “sexual arousal” testing.

“They put questions to me within a test. Mostly it related to my childhood, my sex life, how my partner and I live, if we’re faithful. The first part was a questionnaire. After that you sit in a cubicle and they attach a monitoring device to your member. In front of you there’s a screen, on which they show you images of women, men, children, sexual acts, even landscapes. That lasts an hour.”

Phallometric testing appliance, photo: Czech Television
The Czech authorities reject suggestions that the country is homophobic and have denied breaking EU regulations. A spokesperson for the country’s interior ministry said the test had been employed rarely – less than ten times in total – and not once in the last two years.

The spokesperson said the tests were voluntary and only undertaken with the written consent of asylum applicants. In some cases they themselves request the procedure.