Egypt Joins the 14th Century


With a clear battle going on in Egypt between Muslim reactionaries, the military and the forces of liberalism, this strikes me as a major victory — if the military complies with it, which it may well not do. From Reuters:

An Egyptian civilian court ordered the army Tuesday to end forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons, and the woman who won the legal victory urged other victims to press charges against the army.

Activists said the verdict was a victory for civilian courts over generals who took charge when Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power by a popular revolt in February.

The ruling also adds pressure on the army to hold to account troops who have been rebuked by Egyptians and major aid donor the United States over the treatment of women during protests.

“I am very happy. This is the first round with the military council and we will win the next rounds, God willing,” Samira Ibrahim, who defied taboos in a conservative Muslim country to raise the case over the tests, told Reuters.

Ibrahim had said she and six other women were forced to undergo tests to see if they were virgins in March after they were arrested during a protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Huge credit to Ibrahim for her courageous stand. It’s situations like this that so clearly show the absurdity of cultural relativism to me. This sort of thing is wrong, period. If you would object to it in your own country, you should object to it anywhere — even in countries where it’s traditional or in line with their barbaric religious views.

Comments

  1. exdrone says

    I guess the Egyptian Army will have to accept on good faith the virginal status of a female prisoner. This is rather surprising given that the Army needs to know this because … uh … because … er … Why again was this information ever important?

  2. Infophile says

    @1 exdrone:

    From the article:

    A general was quoted by CNN as saying earlier this year that tests were carried out on detained women to show they were not virgins and so they could not then allege they had been raped.

    Which actually sounds worse than not being able to come up with a reason. It’s a perverse combination of “Only slutty, evil women would dare oppose us” and “It’s impossible to rape a non-virgin” to form “We sexually assaulted them so they couldn’t say we raped them.”

  3. anandine says

    exdrone said: Why again was this information ever important?

    Because if you are a woman but not married and not a virgin, you are a slut, and sluts are an abomination in the eyes of their imaginary friend and need to be punished.

    If you are a man but not married and not a virgin, you are a real man, but you deserve to die anyway, because you have been associating with sluts. There’s just no way to tell if a man is a virgin. (Yes, I know that absence of a hymen is not proof of a woman’s non-virginity, but what are you going to do? You can’t let some real sluts go just so you don’t wrongly punish some non-sluts.)

  4. uzza says

    Clearly the Egyptians are far ahead of the West, who have yet to discover a reliable scientific method to determine if a person is a virgin or not.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    According to the Islamic calendar, this year is 1432 – so according to our esteemed host’s calculations, Egypt is only going backwards by one century.

  6. d cwilson says

    A general was quoted by CNN as saying earlier this year that tests were carried out on detained women to show they were not virgins and so they could not then allege they had been raped.

    Um, what?

    So, if a woman is shown to be a virgin, her claim to being raped is then valid?

    Oh wait, of course. In wacky conservative fundie land, a woman who is raped is guilty of committing adultery. So, if she was raped, she was asking for it. I keep forgetting that in the f*&ked minds of these people, rape isn’t a crime. It’s a punishment.

  7. iangould says

    “Huge credit to Ibrahim for her courageous stand. It’s situations like this that so clearly show the absurdity of cultural relativism to me. This sort of thing is wrong, period. If you would object to it in your own country, you should object to it anywhere — even in countries where it’s traditional or in line with their barbaric religious views.”

    Except the pracitce of “vifginity tests” has nothing to do with either religion or tradition and was introduced quite recently as an attempt to prevent or at least reduce the frequnecy of sexual assault against female prisoners.

    (The theory being if a woman is known to have an intact hutmen when arrested and is shown at a later examaination not to, it’s proof she was assaulted.)

    It was a stupid policy but it arose from a genuine attempt to address a real problem.

  8. laurentweppe says

    Come on: It was from the beginning a cynical attempt to use threat of rape AND slut shaming to bully the very active women activists into silence: give military and police uniforms to far-right bullies in the West, and I don’t give you one single day before something similar happens. Claiming that this was a “cultural” or “religious” practice is already granting the assaulters a certificate of sincerity they never deserved.

  9. Azkyroth says

    So, if a woman is shown to be a virgin, her claim to being raped is then valid?

    Oh wait, of course. In wacky conservative fundie land, a woman who is raped is guilty of committing adultery. So, if she was raped, she was asking for it. I keep forgetting that in the f*&ked minds of these people, rape isn’t a crime. It’s a punishment.

    I read it as “if a woman is a virgin (and thus never penetrated forcibly or otherwise), any claims that she was raped are necessarily false.” Because women just cry rape all the time, you know.

  10. dingojack says

    Ed – when you say: “This sort of thing is wrong, period. If you would object to it in your own country, you should object to it anywhere… ” are you proposing that America consider prohibition again* just because Malaysians or Saudis disapprove of drinking alcohol?
    Or does the finger-wagging and tut-tutting only go one way?
    Curiously, Dingo.
    —-
    * and didn’t that work-out so well the first time
    ….
    PS: Using the legal system to kill people is wrong, here and in Texas. When do you think the US will join the 1970’s?
    [Guess I answered my own question]

  11. johnpalmer says

    Cultural relativism is a funny thing.

    The founders of the US accepted slavery; were they the horrible, horrible people that a modern person would be for thinking slavery is acceptable? No – they lived in a culture that accepted slavery.

    The reason to apply cultural relativism is to recognize that there are actions that, within our society, would mark one as a hideous, horrible person, one where you could ask yourself “if he’ll do X, what other horrible thing will he do?” But in a culture where such things are considered acceptable (or less unacceptable), you can’t judge the person’s goodness or badness the same way.

    It doesn’t mean that the action isn’t wrong.

    (Well – unless you think that all morality is determined by culture. I don’t; I don’t know of anyone in particular who does, other than as a shorthand for “morality doesn’t really exist”.)

  12. dingojack says

    John – One has to consider other contemporary and equivalent cultures.
    When America was opining that ‘all men are created equal’ whilst condoning slavery, England was ruling that slavery, in England at least, was illegal*.
    Go figure.
    Dingo
    —–
    * see Rex v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett (1772)

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