ADELE BUTLER – Women of Spirit: Forced Virginity Tests



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Forced Virginity Tests in Africa, India and Middle East …

isn’t this IMMORAL in itself, as there is zero dignity or respect in the action.

Can you imagine being forced to have virginity tests and then if it turns out that you are not a virgin, you would be charged with prostitution? Seems far fetched and downright ridiculous but this is the reality for Egyptian protesters.

Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month.

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. “All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called ‘tests’.”

This kind of treatment is unfair in the light of the fact that these women were instrumental in the fight for change when Mubarak was still in power. March 9 promised change and unity and hope for a better future for all of Egypt’s citizens. I was shocked and disheartened to learn of the arrests and subsequent treatment of these women protesters. They were out there fighting alongside the men for change and ended up in military detention.


20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, like the other women, she was forced to remove all of her clothes and searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window. During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women. That female prison guard should not have participated in this degrading act. Hosseini was convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.

Imagine you are a virgin but because the test proved otherwise, you are subjected to a beating and electric shocks. Why were these women subjected to this barbaric treatment? Was it simply because they were in Tahir Square protesting?

“Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment,” said Amnesty International. “The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public.”

Journalist Rasha Azeb was also arrested and detained. She was beaten and insulted. She could hear what was happening to the other women. She was later released along with male journalists but other women were transferred to the military prison in Heikstep .

This is unconscionable. This sort of thing should not be happening. Women should be allowed to protest in their own country without the fear of being arrested, beaten and subjected to virginity tests. These army officers wanted to teach them a lesson—to remind them that they are women—not equals. They don’t have any right to be protesting or expressing their views. They ought to be home where they belonged. Such sentiment is outdated.

These women displayed great courage during the country’s revolt and didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were. Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi reacted with outrage, saying that “[Egyptian Women] are furious. We participated in every part of the revolution, and then as soon as it ended we were completely isolated” .

If these allegations are true, these officers should be charge with assault, false and unlawful confinement and other offenses. Their actions violated these women’s rights. They had no right to arrest, detain, beat or force them to take any tests. These women fought hard to overthrow an oppressive regime and they deserve to live in a society where they are not isolated, treated like second-class citizens.


“The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters. Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism,” said Amnesty International. “All security and army forces must be clearly instructed that torture and other ill-treatment, including forced ‘virginity tests’, will no longer be tolerated, and will be fully investigated. Those found responsible for such acts must be brought to justice and the courageous women who denounced such abuses be protected from reprisals.”

Amnesty International opposes the trial of civilians before military courts in Egypt, which have a track record of unfair trials and where the right to appeal is severely restricted (

Take a stand for these brave Egyptian women whose only crime was to fight for what they believed in—democracy, human and gender rights, a better Egypt. Take Action by signing Care2’s petition to stop military violence against Egyptian protesters.


Adele Butler


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