'Virginity Tests' for Egyptian Women Protesters

When it comes to devising ways of stripping peaceful protesters of their dignity, the Egyptian military may have just set a new standard for outrage: Egyptian women arrested during a peaceful protest in Tahrir Square earlier this month were forced to take “virginity tests.”

Egyptian women took a leading role in the Jan. 25 uprising. Photo by Ramy Raoof, licensed through Creative Commons.

Make no doubt about it, this constitutes torture, and the Egyptian military knows it. 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.  At least 18 women were held in military detention following the March 9 protests.

“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” said Amnesty International. “All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called ‘tests’.”

According to the women, the man in white coat who conducted the tests threatened them with prostitution charges if they weren’t found to be virgins. One woman who said she was a virgin but was judged to have failed the test was then beaten and given electric shocks.

17 women detained in the military prison were brought before a military court on March 11 and released two days later. Several received one-year suspended prison sentences.

All of this is in the context of rising concerns that women, who were at the forefront of the protests that led to President Mubarak’s resignation, are being forced to the background in the development of a new Egypt.

Not only were women left off of the panel of experts that recommended constitutional reforms, but the military crackdown on March 9 protest seems to have been intended to signal a status quo and that the discrimination faced by women and religious and social minorities under the Mubarak regime would continue.

But consider this: Egyptian women will not be left behind. They celebrated the Jan. 25 uprising, but they did not declare victory. The women will return to the streets; they are not in need of rescue as much as solidarity.  We should join them in their message for the Egyptian military: The Jan. 25 uprising did not occur so that Egypt could replace shocking and degrading behavior by one ruler with that of another.

For more on the March 9 protests, click here.

Update: Call for an immediate investigation into torture and forced ‘virginity testing’ on Egyptian women

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28 thoughts on “'Virginity Tests' for Egyptian Women Protesters

  1. am sorry but iam in egypt and this could have never happened …first of all the military is very respectful…and if by any chance something like this happened the ppl wudn't have let it go..

  2. i am living here in egypt and i dont say that cuz i am a man,but cuz its the true,this what i read now its impossible to happen here

  3. 97 percent of Egyptian women have had their genitals mutilated by clitoral amputation .
    (UNICEF 2005)

    20,000 women or girls raped every year,”
    ( UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR).

    60% of Egyptian women are illiterate.
    (United Nations Human Development Report)

    Egyptian women have one of the lowest rates of participation in the workforce of any country on earth.
    (United Nations Human Development Report)

    Women are treated under the Egyptian Gender Apartheid regime every bit as badly as blacks were treated under South African Apartheid.

    Stop Egyptian Gender Apartheid Now !

  4. Guys, the military won't tell you anything what they are doing. don't you think you are a little bit starry-eyed. Just because you live in a country doesn't mean you know everything that is going on. Think about. Years after World War 2 many people still couldn't believe what happened in the concentration camps.
    I trust in the work of the AI researchers. They risk their lives for the truth.

  5. am sorry but iam in egypt and this could have never happened …first of all the military is very respectful…and if by any chance something like this happened the ppl wudn’t have let it go..

  6. i am living here in egypt and i dont say that cuz i am a man,but cuz its the true,this what i read now its impossible to happen here

  7. 97 percent of Egyptian women have had their genitals mutilated by clitoral amputation .
    (UNICEF 2005)

    20,000 women or girls raped every year,”
    ( UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR).

    60% of Egyptian women are illiterate.
    (United Nations Human Development Report)

    Egyptian women have one of the lowest rates of participation in the workforce of any country on earth.
    (United Nations Human Development Report)

    Women are treated under the Egyptian Gender Apartheid regime every bit as badly as blacks were treated under South African Apartheid.

    Stop Egyptian Gender Apartheid Now !

  8. Guys, the military won’t tell you anything what they are doing. don’t you think you are a little bit starry-eyed. Just because you live in a country doesn’t mean you know everything that is going on. Think about. Years after World War 2 many people still couldn’t believe what happened in the concentration camps.
    I trust in the work of the AI researchers. They risk their lives for the truth.

  9. Dear Bobbo, dear Ahmed Shawky,

    Here's where YOUR New Egypt is facing the Old Egypt .. on the issue of your women's dignity !

    Here's where Egypt's Revolution, epitomized by your rising women, meets the Counterrevolution spearheaded by the military.

    Here's the border crossing between the Old & the New Egyptian society guarded BY the military, just like Rafah border crossing into hungry Gaza is guarded by the police.

    Open up ALL the border crossings !!

    Free your women, free yourselves !!

    Long live New Egypt !!

    Long live the New Egyptian Revolution !!

  10. Dear Bobbo, dear Ahmed Shawky,

    Here’s where YOUR New Egypt is facing the Old Egypt .. on the issue of your women’s dignity !

    Here’s where Egypt’s Revolution, epitomized by your rising women, meets the Counterrevolution spearheaded by the military.

    Here’s the border crossing between the Old & the New Egyptian society guarded BY the military, just like Rafah border crossing into hungry Gaza is guarded by the police.

    Open up ALL the border crossings !!

    Free your women, free yourselves !!

    Long live New Egypt !!

    Long live the New Egyptian Revolution !!

  11. I do not know what it is about so many of these men from that part of the world.

    I mean no distinction for race or religion or nationality.

    Israel has no shortage of these beasts either. One of them even became President of Israel and is going to jail for 7 years for his sick crimes.

    But at least Israel is a nation with complete equality of the sexes under law, more equality than most other western countries even have, and also has courageous independent police and independent not scared of anyone prosecutors and independent non-corrupt courts and some of the toughest sexual harassment laws on earth so Israel deals harshly with their harassers.

    When will the Arab world follow Israel's example and do the same?

  12. I do not know what it is about so many of these men from that part of the world.

    I mean no distinction for race or religion or nationality.

    Israel has no shortage of these beasts either. One of them even became President of Israel and is going to jail for 7 years for his sick crimes.

    But at least Israel is a nation with complete equality of the sexes under law, more equality than most other western countries even have, and also has courageous independent police and independent not scared of anyone prosecutors and independent non-corrupt courts and some of the toughest sexual harassment laws on earth so Israel deals harshly with their harassers.

    When will the Arab world follow Israel’s example and do the same?

  13. Mubarak`s resignation was supposed to be the new beginning for the Egyptians. However, it seems the dictator himself was not the only problem. It looks like the people of Egypt really want a better future but, at the same time, refuse to accept the rules that are basic in the more civilized countries.

  14. Mubarak`s resignation was supposed to be the new beginning for the Egyptians. However, it seems the dictator himself was not the only problem. It looks like the people of Egypt really want a better future but, at the same time, refuse to accept the rules that are basic in the more civilized countries.

  15. I support virginity testing. Look, we have to set a higher standard for ALL people, except those in Darfur.

  16. I support virginity testing. Look, we have to set a higher standard for ALL people, except those in Darfur.

  17. What year is this now? Where is your basic human right? Please show some kind of respect here, we all are human. Why woman have to be degraded like this?

  18. What year is this now? Where is your basic human right? Please show some kind of respect here, we all are human. Why woman have to be degraded like this?

  19. I agree with the work that AI is doing around the world.
    But I would think AI would have more proof than just one woman claiming this happened to her.
    AI claims this happened at least to 18 women, but gives the name of only woman.
    Has it passed on this information to the military ?
    Is AI taking this action now because the military hasn't done anything about this issue ?
    Why is AI jumping the gun and asking for Ms. Clinton to take action.

    After all, what is the point in asking a foreign Secretary of State ot take action, unless and until AI has tried to get justice for these women in Egypt and failed.

    To some of us at least this smells like an attempt to defame the Egyptian military or at least pressurize them to achieve political ends.

    I hope I am wrong and AI can publish more details of their effort to get justice for these women, which were stonewalled, so now it is compelled to go public and ask for help from the US Secretary of State.

  20. I do agree with Mr. Dadani and AI should bring up more evidences on this matter, I consider AI is very irresponsible to bring up things like this without solid evidences, more than a name of one woman, to accuse the Egyptian army of doing torture similar to the security forces of Mubarak, and they were the defender of the revolution in Egypt.It appear to me that AI would like to put a wedge between Egyptian people and the Egyptian Army, as well damaging the image and the role of the Egyptian Army in establishing a true democracy in Egypt

  21. I agree with the work that AI is doing around the world.
    But I would think AI would have more proof than just one woman claiming this happened to her.
    AI claims this happened at least to 18 women, but gives the name of only woman.
    Has it passed on this information to the military ?
    Is AI taking this action now because the military hasn’t done anything about this issue ?
    Why is AI jumping the gun and asking for Ms. Clinton to take action.

    After all, what is the point in asking a foreign Secretary of State ot take action, unless and until AI has tried to get justice for these women in Egypt and failed.

    To some of us at least this smells like an attempt to defame the Egyptian military or at least pressurize them to achieve political ends.

    I hope I am wrong and AI can publish more details of their effort to get justice for these women, which were stonewalled, so now it is compelled to go public and ask for help from the US Secretary of State.

  22. I do agree with Mr. Dadani and AI should bring up more evidences on this matter, I consider AI is very irresponsible to bring up things like this without solid evidences, more than a name of one woman, to accuse the Egyptian army of doing torture similar to the security forces of Mubarak, and they were the defender of the revolution in Egypt.It appear to me that AI would like to put a wedge between Egyptian people and the Egyptian Army, as well damaging the image and the role of the Egyptian Army in establishing a true democracy in Egypt

  23. this is not true. kindly make sure of what you spread among people. you are loosing your credibility by posting false news. if you have proof let us see that.

  24. this is not true. kindly make sure of what you spread among people. you are loosing your credibility by posting false news. if you have proof let us see that.

  25. i won't reply to Judonimh's ludicrous upholding of israel as a should – be inspiration to the Arab world ( or even the West ! ) in gender equality. There will be time, i'm sure, for such a reply in the near future.

    He speaks of the gender problem among "many of these men in that part of the world" …

    A vague, amorphous, indiscriminate mass labeling.

    Without any class analysis.

    Or historical dissection.

    A labeling which cannot help those grappling with the women's issue, or its related issues.

    But i'd like to address ahmed, Mohammed, Yusuf Dadani & the others on this.

    A window of opportunity is open to you today.

    But it shows signs of closing no sooner than it opened.

    The old Arab generations, mired in dissolution & defeat til today, should pay attention to the burning questions of their society.

    Even if only one woman raises it !

    The military is the old enemy of all Revolutions.

    In Egypt it has reportedly found a new bedfellow today.

    The Muslim Brotherhood.

    Both want hurried, early referendums on Egypt's urgent questions.

    The revolutionary, secular groups that contributed to bringing about this Revolution are demanding a larger time frame in posing the referendums.

    They want time for society's alternative, secular & democratic classes & organizations to mature enough BEFORE such referendums can be correctly configured & posed.

    The army & the Brotherhood don't want to give the people this necessary time.

    The US government is WITH the Egyptian army in hurrying forward with its ( the US' ) own agenda.

    Which is privatization & the neoliberal channelling of the economy as solutions to the people's fury … the very things Mubarak himself stood for & which ruined the economy.

    The army – Brotherhood alliance may be using the issue of women's role in the revolution to clamp down on it & increase their own power.

    In the very name of the most backward practices of religion.

    Our Egyptian brothers ( & sisters ! ) should be aware of any dangers from this direction.

    For it's the direction from which military – religious dictatorship can strangle the people's Revolution, as it has done for so long in the Arab & Muslim worlds.

  26. i won’t reply to Judonimh’s ludicrous upholding of israel as a should – be inspiration to the Arab world ( or even the West ! ) in gender equality. There will be time, i’m sure, for such a reply in the near future.

    He speaks of the gender problem among “many of these men in that part of the world” …

    A vague, amorphous, indiscriminate mass labeling.

    Without any class analysis.

    Or historical dissection.

    A labeling which cannot help those grappling with the women’s issue, or its related issues.

    But i’d like to address ahmed, Mohammed, Yusuf Dadani & the others on this.

    A window of opportunity is open to you today.

    But it shows signs of closing no sooner than it opened.

    The old Arab generations, mired in dissolution & defeat til today, should pay attention to the burning questions of their society.

    Even if only one woman raises it !

    The military is the old enemy of all Revolutions.

    In Egypt it has reportedly found a new bedfellow today.

    The Muslim Brotherhood.

    Both want hurried, early referendums on Egypt’s urgent questions.

    The revolutionary, secular groups that contributed to bringing about this Revolution are demanding a larger time frame in posing the referendums.

    They want time for society’s alternative, secular & democratic classes & organizations to mature enough BEFORE such referendums can be correctly configured & posed.

    The army & the Brotherhood don’t want to give the people this necessary time.

    The US government is WITH the Egyptian army in hurrying forward with its ( the US’ ) own agenda.

    Which is privatization & the neoliberal channelling of the economy as solutions to the people’s fury … the very things Mubarak himself stood for & which ruined the economy.

    The army – Brotherhood alliance may be using the issue of women’s role in the revolution to clamp down on it & increase their own power.

    In the very name of the most backward practices of religion.

    Our Egyptian brothers ( & sisters ! ) should be aware of any dangers from this direction.

    For it’s the direction from which military – religious dictatorship can strangle the people’s Revolution, as it has done for so long in the Arab & Muslim worlds.

  27. a. savage:

    When you do reply, be sure to describe your feelings about the fact that the high court judge who lead the panel which convicted the former Israeli President of rape is an Israeli-Arab.

    In Israel a judge who is a member of the Arab minority group sat in judgment over the President of the country for raping his secretary and sent him to jail.

    I am quite sure this would not the case in any Arab country, since ALL minority groups in Arab countries are automatically and horrifically oppressed, even other Muslim groups like the Shites and Palestinian refugees, let alone the non-Arabs or non-Muslims like the Kurdish, like the southern Sudanese, and like and the Copts, all viciously treated, oppressed and regularly massacred so why not let Israel be an example in this regard ?

    Also explain why it would be is ludicrous that Israel should serve as an example to the Arab world, since Israeli-Arabs, both the Israeli-Arab men and the Israeli-Arab !!!women!!! have had the vote for 60 years now, but in Saudi Arabia it was announced last week there would be a vote, but of course the 40 million Saudi women will not be allowed to vote as they never have been. Would it really be so terrible if the whole Arab world followed Israel's example by giving Arab women the vote ?

    Yes, and please explain why it would be ludicrous that Israel should serve as an example to the Arab world, since not only Israeli women but also Israeli gays too have full equality and protection from harassment or discrimination by heavily enforced laws by non-corrupt police, prosecutors and judges. In every Arab country Gays are subject to the death penalty so why not let Israel, a country where Arab gays often flee to for political asylum to escape execution in their home countries, be an example to the Arab world in this regard.

    Should I even bother to mention freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, ban on torture etc. etc. all of which are practiced in Israel as strongly or even more strongly than in any western democracy on earth, and are practiced nowhere in any of the 21 Arab countries ?

  28. a. savage:

    When you do reply, be sure to describe your feelings about the fact that the high court judge who lead the panel which convicted the former Israeli President of rape is an Israeli-Arab.

    In Israel a judge who is a member of the Arab minority group sat in judgment over the President of the country for raping his secretary and sent him to jail.

    I am quite sure this would not the case in any Arab country, since ALL minority groups in Arab countries are automatically and horrifically oppressed, even other Muslim groups like the Shites and Palestinian refugees, let alone the non-Arabs or non-Muslims like the Kurdish, like the southern Sudanese, and like and the Copts, all viciously treated, oppressed and regularly massacred so why not let Israel be an example in this regard ?

    Also explain why it would be is ludicrous that Israel should serve as an example to the Arab world, since Israeli-Arabs, both the Israeli-Arab men and the Israeli-Arab !!!women!!! have had the vote for 60 years now, but in Saudi Arabia it was announced last week there would be a vote, but of course the 40 million Saudi women will not be allowed to vote as they never have been. Would it really be so terrible if the whole Arab world followed Israel’s example by giving Arab women the vote ?

    Yes, and please explain why it would be ludicrous that Israel should serve as an example to the Arab world, since not only Israeli women but also Israeli gays too have full equality and protection from harassment or discrimination by heavily enforced laws by non-corrupt police, prosecutors and judges. In every Arab country Gays are subject to the death penalty so why not let Israel, a country where Arab gays often flee to for political asylum to escape execution in their home countries, be an example to the Arab world in this regard.

    Should I even bother to mention freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, ban on torture etc. etc. all of which are practiced in Israel as strongly or even more strongly than in any western democracy on earth, and are practiced nowhere in any of the 21 Arab countries ?