The suffering and exploitation of Egyptian women have been widely represented in popular media recently, with some graphic images of women being beaten to within an inch of their lives being circulated. Only recently has the use of Virginity Tests been publicized to the Western World, thanks to women protesters, international journalism, and the support of the Human Rights Watch.
Many of these protestors risk their lives and further exploitation by attempting to bring their situation into the spotlight in the hope that someone will pay attention enough to help their cause.
Many Egyptian women have had to endure the most humiliating practices; practices that Western women, would certainly define as sexual assault. Virginity tests were compulsory procedures orchestrated by the Egyptian military personnel, for female anti-government protestors who had been arrested. The women were warned that if they denied the test, they were ultimately going to be charged with prostitution.
Amnesty International states that the forced virginity tests are “a degrading form of abuse,” and that “the women were subjected to nothing less than torture.” The justifications for conducting the tests included the fear of sexual assault accusations from the protestors, and that military personnel wanted to prove that the women were not virgins before they were arrested. This alludes to the dominant notion in Egypt that only virgins could be victims of rape.
Tuesday December 27th, 2011 marked a historic day for the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, with the prohibition of this test. While it is unlikely that the banning of the Virginity Tests will eliminate the extent of patriarchy in Egypt, it does go some way for holding personnel accountable for the abuse and may even restore some faith in the courts. It just might be a step in the right direction to ensure future generations of Egyptian women are not victimized on account of their sex.
Amnesty International Demands Justice in Forced “Virginity Tests” in Egypt. (2011) http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/amnesty-international-demands-justice-in-forced-virginity-tests-in-egypt
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