Egyptian women protesters tortured and forced to take virginity tests

*trigger warning*

Amnesty International reports that a group of Egyptian women protesters was tortured by the army earlier this month. At least 18 women were beaten, given electric shocks, and forced to undergo “virginity tests.”

“After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.

“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” said Amnesty International.”

The women were arrested along with almost 200 other protesters at a March 9th protest in Tahrir Square “to press for a number of demands of the revolution that had not been fulfilled.” Sadly, despite claims from the military to the contrary, it looks increasingly like one of those unfilled demands is an end to the “routine and systemic” torture that characterized the Mubarak regime.

Speaking of demands, Egyptian women, who played such a vital role in the revolution only to find themselves quickly sidelined, aren’t dropping theirs. The inspiring Egyptian feminist Nawal al-Saadawi says:

“But we re-established the Egyptian Women’s Union and we are organizing day and night. We are demanding at least 35 percent female participation in all committees to be formed to change the constitution, at every level, as well as a secular constitution, a secular family code and total equality before the law.

Add to that list the right to protest without “without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment.”

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    I really wished this wasn’t true. Even more insidious than when Laura Ingrahm called Meghan McCain fat, it’s like saying: “Don’t listen to these women, they’re sluts. Not the kind of women you want to grow up to be girls.” I can’t wait until virginity becomes totally and completely irrelevent to anybody

  • Sierra

    Thank you for posting this and emphasizing the horrific virginity tests aspect. Quite often, I feel the media glosses over things like that- I suppose there is a belief that the torture is more horrific and has the mentality “at least they weren’t beaten up during virginity tests.” Bs. I applaud you feministing!

  • Matt

    I don’t know how this compares with Egypt’s practices before the military coup, but abuses like these show the country has an exceedingly long way to go in terms of women’s rights (and really human rights in general).

  • Donna Clark

    I remember when I first discovered there were “Islamic Feminists”. I understand where they are coming from but I had realized the role of religion in misogyny so long ago so I haven’t been able to understand or appreciate how any woman of thoughtful intelligence and reflection on the history of the world could become involved in religion. If you are thoughtful enough to realize that the cultural standards for men and women are out of whack why then can’t you also see how religion contributes to those standards? I am sincerely and genuinely interested in hearing from women about their voluntary involvement in christianity or islam or any other religion about their personal experience and decision to go along with it.

    • Maya

      Hi Donna,
      One place to start might be to check out the guest post series we’ve been running here at Feministing on Faith and Feminism. Although I’m not religious, I think it’s perfectly possible to, as you say, recognize how a religion contributes to damaging cultural standards, while not completely rejecting it. I think we all do that kind of negotiation all the time: we recognize the aspects of our culture that are fucked up but also live within it–taking the best of it and trying to make it better.