EGYPT: Amnesty International demands justice for victims of ‘virginity tests’
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Amnesty International issued a statement Tuesday demanding that Egyptian authorities bring to justice those responsible for ordering or conducting forced “virginity tests” on female protesters. Earlier in the day, an Egyptian general tried to justify the practice during an interview with CNN.
The general told CNN that women detained in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on March 9 had been forced to undergo ‘virginity tests,’ which the government had previously denied, despite Amnesty International reports shortly after the protest.
An Amnesty International researcher said accounts gathered from women who were subjected to the tests showed they were done to check whether their hymens were broken.
‘That’s a violation of their privacy that amounts to rape and torture,’ said researcher Mohamed Lotfy, a member of Amnesty International’s North Africa team. ‘We want an investigation to hold accountable those who did these acts.’
The general, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to justify the practice by saying that the women “were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters.” “This admission is an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse,” said Amnesty International officials. ‘The Egyptian authorities must condemn these discriminatory, abusive and insulting attitudes which have been used to justify torture of women protesters, and which are clearly present at the highest levels.’
Amnesty International in March gathered the testimonies of women protesters subjected to forced “virginity tests,” then wrote to Egypt’s Supreme Council for Armed Forces requesting an investigation. As of Tuesday, the organization had not received a response.
The general also told CNN that the reason for the ‘tests’ was that the military “didn’t want [the women] to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place.’
“This general’s implication that only virgins can be victims of rape is a long-discredited sexist attitude and legal absurdity. When determining a case of rape, it is irrelevant whether or not the victim is a virgin,” Amnesty International said. “The army must immediately instruct security forces and soldiers that such ‘tests’ are banned.”
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo