Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month. After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges. ‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced. "Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women," said Amnesty International. "All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called 'tests'."
Obligatory gynecological exams aimed at shaming women for being sexually active and forcing them to hate the fact of having been born female are something that, unfortunately, I know very well firsthand. In the Soviet Union, we were subjected to forced gynecological exams since the age of 11 or twelve. Often, people conducting such tests on pre-teen girls were young male students of med schools. You can imagine how traumatic it is to be pawed and ogled by twenty-year-old men when you are at that age.
Later on, if one was getting a college education while being female, one was forced to undergo gynecological exams in order to be allowed to continue as a student. Such exams were extremely invasive and often resulted in women being shamed for being sexually active. Sometimes, spurious medical diagnoses were invented and women were obligated to go through painful and completely unnecessary medical procedures to get "cured" from illnesses they never had.
Forced gynecological procedures are one of the most popular methods used by repressive regimes to coerce and terrorize women. It horrifies me that this is now happening to the women of Egypt.