A Kenyan appeals court yesterday ruled unlawful the use of forced anal exams to test whether two men had gay sex, which is criminalised in the East African nation.

The earlier high court decision was unconstitutional and violated human rights, appellate court Judge Alnashir Visram said during the hearing in the coastal city of Mombasa.

Gay rights advocates cheered the decision, saying forced anal exams amount to torture. The Kenya Medical Association last year condemned their use.

"The ruling is a tremendous step not only in upholding the dignity of homosexuals who'd been subjected to the indignities of anal examinations but also to the rule of law in Kenya," said Eric Gitari, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

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The commission represented the two men who were arrested in 2015 on suspicion of being gay and subjected to forced anal exams and HIV tests.

Human Rights Watch has said Kenya is one of at least eight countries that have used forced anal exams on suspected homosexuals since 2010, along with Cameroon, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Zambia.

The new ruling undoubtedly will have an impact on those countries, Gitari said.

In Kenya, gay sex faces a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the East African nation have complained of harassment, which in some cases is violent. Gay people often are ostracised by families and communities and discriminated against when it comes to renting property and finding jobs.

Kenya's High Court last month began hearing arguments in a case that challenges parts of the penal code seen as targeting the LGBT community. The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission argues that the sections are in breach of the constitution and deny basic rights by criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults.

- AP