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The court found that protecting against potential charges of rape was no justification for violating women’s bodies, according to a text of the ruling provided by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which helped argue the case.
“These acts involve deliberate humiliation and intentional insult to women participating in protests,” the court said in its ruling, calling the military’s conduct of the tests “a criminal offense.”
“It represents a violation of human rights and freedoms which make up the most sublime constitutional rights and freedoms of all,” the court declared.
Egyptian state news media reported that military officials characterized the ruling as meaningless since “virginity tests” were already outside military procedures. The officials said a military court is investigating whether an unnamed army doctor might have conducted the tests.
The decision comes at a moment when there is outrage internationally and domestically at recent episodes of military brutality toward civilian demonstrators, including women. There was recently video of soldiers beating and stripping female protesters in Tahrir Square earlier this month that inspired thousands of women to march through the capital last week in the largest such event in modern Egyptian history.
The virginity-test case, however, arose from the military’s March 9 demolition of a small tent city still left in Tahrir Square after the February protests. Soldiers arrested about 200 demonstrators, including about 20 women, according to the subsequent testimony of many of those detained. Most, both men and women, were beaten severely. Some said they were tortured with electric prods or stun guns.
Along with more than a 100 men, 17 women were convicted of “thuggery” in quick military trials and detained on a base. The next day, according to the separate testimonies of at least six women who have either spoken publicly or to human rights groups, seven of the woman were forced to undergo the invasive physical examinations — “virginity tests” — by an army doctor. Adding to the humiliation, soldiers watched, the women said.
“It was painful,” one of the women, Samira Ibrahim, 25, told the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, according to its report on the event. All were released within days on suspended sentences.