UPDATE 12-27-2011: The forced virginity tests have been now banned by an Egyptian court. Samira Ibrahim, one of the many women forced to undergo the humiliating examination, filed the case. This is a great victory for human rights.
Egyptian women protesting had to endure an entirely unique sort of humiliation — getting tested to see if they were virgins at the time of arrest. Lest you think that this was some kind of depraved way to get into women’s undergarments under legal pretenses, rest assured that this is not the case. After all, the senior general who wished not to be identified absolutely insisted that this was the case.
“We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).”
Well that is certainly a relief. If it turned out that any of the women had been virgins, then it certainly would not have been worth checking. Could it be that the tests themselves were a form of assault? We would want to assume that the Egyptian government would treat their detainees with anything other than the most respect?
Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum’s grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.
The history of sexual assault in prison is lengthy and can be tied to a simple fact — incarcerated women (and men as well) are completely powerless against their captors and are held to their whims. The prisoners have the understanding that the key to their freedom lies solely in the hands of said captors and so they come to believe that they must do whatever they want to gain that freedom.
So let us now reiterate. The Egyptian government, trying to protect itself from claims of sexual assault, physically assaults women who were protesting the government. They then go on to actually sexually the prisoners — is there any doubt that there is no way to check if a woman is a virgin without completely degrading her sexually? It is simply not possible.
The Egyptian general made a remark that seemed to be an excuse for the poor behavior of the temporary military government. “The army can’t wait to return to its barracks and do what it does best — protect the nation’s borders.” To me, his saying this seems to be a cover for what he must have realized was absolutely wrong behavior. Bad behavior is bad regardless of why it is being perpetrated and it should be punished.