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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Egypt: ‘virginity checks’ of female protestors causes outrage

CNN

Revelations that the Egyptian army administered “virginity checks” on detained female protestors have triggered outrage since a senior general admitted the procedure in a televised interview.

Allegations of "virginity tests" first surfaced in a report by Amnesty International about a protest on March 9 in Tahrir Square in which it said 17 female demonstrators were tortured, given electric shocks and forced to submit to virginity checks.

Egyptian authorities denied the allegations but a senior general on Monday admitted to the virginity checks, according to CNN.
"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," he said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

He said the virginity checks were conducted to prevent women from later charging authorities with sexual assault.

"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. None of them were (virgins)," he told CNN.

The general’s views caused immediate outrage and social media feeds erupted with anger and disgust.

The Egyptian army was heralded for its role in the January uprising that saw the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

At least 846 protesters were killed, and thousands injured during the 18-day uprising, according to a government fact-finding mission.

Mr. Mubarak and his former aides are facing trial on charges of corruption, misappropriation of public funds and also ordering violence on the protestors.

But the army’s popularity was soon tested at a protest in March, organized to voice frustration over the slow pace of reform, which saw the military target the protestors—clearing Tahrir Square of demonstrators by force.

The Amnesty International report quoted detained protestors, which is where allegations of virginity tests first surfaced.

One 20-year-old hairdresser who was quoted in the report spoke of being tied up by soldiers who slapped her, shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute, according to the CNN report.

"They wanted to teach us a lesson," she said soon after the Amnesty report came out. "They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity."

She said the treatment she and 16 other demonstrators faced at a detention center in Heikstep only worsened: the women were strip searched in the presence of male soldiers and it was here they were all subjected to virginity tests.

"We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test," she said but she and her colleagues were threatened with stun-gun shocks if they did not comply.

"I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment. There was no one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them standing there as witnesses," CNN quotes her as saying.

According to the senior general, 149 detainees were tried in military courts after the March 9 protest and most were sentenced to a year in prison, but the many had their sentences revoked, said CNN.

"When we discovered that some of the detainees had university degrees, so we decided to give them a second chance," he told CNN.

Egypt is scheduled to hold elections by September.

Some political groups are calling on the ruling council to delay the elections saying that a September date does not give them time to prepare for the polls and that the date favors the Muslim Brotherhood which is well-organized.

But the army has reiterated that it plans to hand over power to the civilians and return to the barracks

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