Sexual assault and the threat of sexual assault are used as a way to control women. Nowhere is that more present, lately, than in Egypt where female protesters have been forced to undergo “virginity tests” administered by soldiers when they are arrested and imprisoned. Yesterday, a Cairo court sided with protester Samira Ibrahim, age 25, who was assaulted with a “virginity test” after she was arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in March, and ordered that the military stop forcing its way into women’s bodies. The court’s ruling claimed, “These acts involve deliberate humiliation and intentional insult to women participating in protests.”Human rights organizations have called “virginity tests” of female protesters by soldiers a way to scare, shame, or punish women for protesting; women who were assaulted this way have reported being watched or photographed naked by male soldiers while the “virginity tests” were taking place. The BBC also noted that an Egyptian general was quoted earlier this year saying that the so-called tests were to prove women were sexually active so they could not later claim they had been raped by authorities. (Because a woman who has been sexually active, even once, is a hussy who could never be raped.) You can read Amnesty International’s March 2011 report on “virginity tests,” which it called torture, here.
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