Middle East

Egyptian women's views: Verdict in virginity test case

Protest against virginity tests - December
Image caption There has been widspread anger at the virginity tests

There have been protests in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after a military court acquitted an army doctor accused of carrying out forced virginity tests on women activists on Sunday. Ahmed Adel was cleared of indecent behaviour and disobeying army orders.

The case against him was brought by Samira Ibrahim who said she underwent a virginity test after she was arrested with 17 other women during a demonstration in Tahrir Square a year ago. An Egyptian civilian court has since ordered that such tests on women in military detention must be stopped. The BBC's Yolande Knell asked women in Cairo for their views on the case and the verdict.

Heba Bakry, university lecturer

I totally sympathise with Samira Ibrahim and all the women who could have been exposed to such a traumatic experience. I personally believe it did occur, because a member of SCAF [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] has already admitted that it is a routine procedure that's practised on both men and women who are detained. Many other girls must have passed through this extreme violation of human rights.

I think that the revolutionaries should plan for any step they take in the future very well in order not to lose ground and popular support. In Egyptian culture, if the court acquits a suspect then that's it and there is a danger that society will start suspecting the victim of guilt of some kind. Of course in such a patriarchal society this is much easier than the thought that army personnel are involved in such crimes.

We, as women, should not stop at Samira's case, and we should keep raising awareness for all the violations done whether physical or verbal. This is not a court battle, it is one for civilisation.

Wala Gebba

I was disappointed about the verdict but not surprised as this whole case was very predictable. We all know the military is not going to blame the soldiers. The military court is designed to protect the military not the civilians.

The judge had already downgraded the charge in this case from one of indecent assault to indecent behaviour.

It made me feel sick when I first heard these virginity tests were happening. It's the sort of thing you heard about in old Egyptian movies. Even though it was known awful things happen in military prisons, I didn't think they would do something this harsh.

The only positive aspect is that this case changed Egyptian attitudes about women. In the past, a woman would have been stigmatised for just speaking out about this. People would have said she should have stayed at home. Now they look at Samira Ibrahim as a victim. There's been a shift in society since the revolution. In the past few days women have taken part in marches to stand up for their rights.

Heba Morayef, Human Rights Watch researcher

Unfortunately after having looked at how the trial was conducted, the decision was fairly predictable. This was the military investigating itself with its serving officers sitting as judges. There was a focus on just this one young man, Ahmed Adel, rather than looking at who was responsible for ordering the virginity tests.

The victory in this case is that it was brought to court through public pressure. It was held up as a powerful illustration of military abuse and a lack of respect for Egyptians, particularly women. When we met a SCAF general last June he told us the virginity tests were ordinary practice in military prisons but that an order had been given for it to end. This was followed up in December 2011 with a decision by the Civilian Administrative Court to stop such tests. It was the first time the civilian court had criticised the military for a human rights abuse.

I don't think the virginity test decision is an encouraging sign for what will happen around the Maspero investigation [into deadly clashes between Coptic Christian protesters and military police last October]. It is also depressing because I don't think we will ever see justice for the woman protester who had her clothes torn off to show her blue bra [in protests in December] - even though we have video footage for that. The battle for military accountability is going to be a long one.

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