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In March 2011, Amnesty International reported that the Egyptian military had subjected female protesters to "virginity tests." The women told Amnesty that they had been handcuffed and beaten, stripped searched and photographed by male soldiers, then restrained by female soldiers while a man in a white coat performed a virginity check. The military initially denied the accusations, but an anonymous senior general has confirmed to CNN that the virginity tests did in fact happen, saying that these women "were not like your daughter or mine. These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters."
From the article:
The general went on to insist that the tests were necessary because "we didn't want (the women) to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove they weren't virgins in the first place."
What are virginity tests? They are a controversial but relatively common practice in Egypt -- so much so that hymenoplasty (hymen restoration) is often sought by Egyptian brides to protect their reputation on their wedding night. But their use as an intimidation factor by security forces seems to be a new twist.
And based on the outrage across Egypt over this abuse, it seems that the military's attempt to intimidate and smear the women protesters has backfired. Human rights groups are demanding a full investigation and several demonstrations are planned in coming days in support of the women.
Egyptian security forces have a long and troubling history of abusing and torturing citizens for political ends. They have engaged in widespread intimidation tactics since the upsurge in political violence and Islamic militancy in the early 1990s, including the detention of women, children, and the elderly. In the last two decades, the practice of arrest and detention without trial has expanded to anyone considered a threat to the military or the former regime of Hosni Mubarak, especially those advocating political reform.
Women suffer special mistreatment. For example, Esraa Abdel Fattah -- better known as the "Facebook Girl" who in 2008 mobilized thousands of young people to march for political change -- was arrested for her leadership role in those protests. Egypt's security forces tried to destroy her reputation by accusing her of being a prostitute, but her Facebook compatriots saw through that ploy and several young men even proposed marriage to her while she was detained.