Via CNN and other sources today, the revolting news that a senior Egyptian general admits so-called "virginity checks" (presumably, forcible examination of the hymen) were performed on women arrested in at least one demonstration this spring. Previously, military authorities denied it. Now, an Egyptian general who asked not to be identified defends the practice—wait for it—as a protective measure for the women's own good.
As noted previously on Boing Boing, Amnesty International reported and condemned news of this systematic sexual abuse by military agents back in March. At the time, women were at the forefront of the historic Tahrir Square protests that overthrew the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. And Amnesty International was told then by a group of 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."
With that in mind, here's a snip from Shahira Amin's report today for CNN:
The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general 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)."
The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.
"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," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."
…and if you're not a virgin, it's not rape, anyway. But more to the point: these so-called "virginity checks" are nothing less than a form of rape.
As a human biology note, not that it would make this horrific form of militarized sexual abuse any more justified, and not that it was the point of those perpetrating the abuse: examining the hymen is not an accurate way to determine virginity. This is a myth.
And a personal observation? My god, but these women out at the protests in Egypt, knowing that these are the sort of barbaric risks they face, are strong, strong human beings.
(PHOTO: Egyptian soldiers stand behind veiled women opposition supporters at Tahrir Square in Cairo in February, 2011; roughly the same period during which reports of this form of sexual abuse by military began to emerge. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic.)