Egypt’s army has devised an original method to defend itself against possible allegations of rape by women “in its care”:
By now, almost everyone has heard the about the 18 women protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who this past spring were detained, beaten, given electric shocks, strip searched and forced to submit to “virginity tests“. (source)
May I suggest that trying to protect yourself against potential charges of rape by violating women’s bodies isn’t really very smart? Of course, the real reason for these tests is torture and intimidation. Women will probably think twice before participating in protests if they know what may happen if they are detained. The tests themselves are horrific, but they can also entail future harm: if the tests are negative, women risk prostitution charges, jail sentences and social stigma.
The tests involve an inspection of a female’s hymen, on the mistaken assumption that her hymen can only be torn as a result of sexual intercourse. This is one account of the way in which the tests were conducted:
[T]he female detainees were separated into two groups, the married and unmarried. The seven unmarried women were given a medical checkup during which the “virginity test” was done. …
“They took us out one by one … they took me to a bed in a passageway in front of the cell. There were lots of soldiers around and they could see me.
I asked if the soldiers could move away and the officer escorting me teased me.
A woman prison guard in plainclothes stood at my head and then a man in military uniform examined me with his hand for several minutes. It was painful. He took his time”. (source)
Fortunately, an Egyptian court has now ruled that virginity tests on female detainees are illegal, referencing the human rights guaranteed in the Egyptian Constitutional Declaration of 2011 as well as Egypt’s obligation under international law. Which of course doesn’t mean the tests will end. Virginity tests in general have not been outlawed, only those taking place in military detention premises. And it remains to be seen if the military will respect the ruling.