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.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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