Administrative Court suspends military’s forced virginity tests

Ahram Online, Friday 30 Dec 2011

The military's practice of subjecting female detainees to tests tantamount to sexual assault is now banned after a civilian court ruling Tuesday

Samira Ibrahim
Samira Ibrahim, who has become another revolutionary icon, makes victory signs while celebrating with her supporters (Photo: Ahram)

The Administrative Court has suspended the practice of subjecting female detainees arrested by the military police to undergo virginity tests.

The verdict was returned on Tuesday morning after Samira Ibrahim and Maha Mohamed filed a lawsuit calling for the revocation of virginity tests at military facilities.

Two separate cases were filed on Ibrahim’s behalf by lawyers from the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

The first case challenges the administering of the so-called virginity tests, to which today’s verdict concerns, while the second challenges the referral of the detainees to a military court.

After military forces forcibly dispersed a sit-in at Tahrir Square on 9 March, a number of protesters were arrested. They were reportedly subjected to torture, beatings and electrocution. The female detainees were also subjected to virginity tests.

The case sparked a controversy, with virginity tests described as humiliating and a stark violation of human rights by human rights organisations in Egypt and abroad.

Ibrahim, 25, was among seven female protesters who were subjected to these virginity tests. She is the only one who has publicly given an account of the abuse she underwent.

During today’s session, hundreds of political activists gathered before the building of the Administrative Court in solidarity with the abused women, holding placards that read “Egypt’s women are a red line.” The court verdict drew applause and cheers from those present.

After the session, Ibrahim and a host of other protesters celebrated in Tahrir Square, symbolic of the January 25 Revolution and the venue of many other demonstrations this year.

Human rights lawyer Gamal Eid confirmed to Ahram Online that the Administrative Court is entitled to return such a verdict as the case is subject to administrative law because it concerns the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which is a governmental body.

Further violations from military personnel were recently documented in videos and photos in the wake of a military crackdown on a sit-in outside the Cabinet offices on 16 December.

In particular, the footage of military police part stripping an unknown young woman in the street as they viciously kicked and beat her has elicited international outrage. A female passerby who sought to assist her was also subjected to a brutal assault.                                   

These recent assaults on women contributed to making the case of forced virginity tests a matter of public opinion.

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