Tuesday, 31 May 2011

'Asking for It', Revolutionary Style

On March 9, 2011, after Mubarak had resigned and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had taken over, Tahrir Square, still occupied by activists, was raided by the military. Many were arrested, detained, and some were beaten and tortured.

Among them were 17 women. After their release they claimed they had also been subjected to 'virginity tests'. They were threatened with prostitution charges if they 'failed'. SCAF said it would investigate the claims.

We know how that usually goes.

Today CNN is breaking a story on a SCAF officer who confirms the allegations but with a bizarre justification (bold mine).
A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or "virginity tests."

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

"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.

Here is the Amnesty International report, which demands justice for the abused.
“This admission is an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse,” said Amnesty International. “The women were subjected to nothing less than torture.”

Okey-dokey then. Shorter SCAF: 'To make sure you don't accuse us of rape, we'll rape you. And besides, you're all sluts anyway.'

Follow developments and reactions on Twitter: #virginitygate and #virginitytests.

Here's some of what people are saying.

Maddinya: "Women who fight power are asking to be raped." - SCAF #Egypt #genderME #jan25 #PIGS #virginitygate

Mona Eltahawy: When the "State" sexually violates women, it gives green light for all to violate. #virginitygate #Egypt

Oh. Look. SCAF dismisses the report.

(DJ!'s previous post on how the Arab Spring is treating women.)

1 comment:

Niles said...

Fear, baby. It's what's for breakfast.

Doesn't matter what society on this planet is being referenced or what period of history. Women are routinely threatened with rape and turned into inconsequential playthings to reinforce the dominance structures of men. In the Renaissance, European cities never lacked gangs of young men maintaining the 'good order'. They were officially allowed to attack/rape women found out 'in the streets' after certain hours and inside residences if they decided she was a slut/whore. The only time they were ever brought up short was if the woman was of exceptional status. Or more accurately, her male relatives were.

A *slightly* lesser degree of that one example of historical 'purity squad' and its modern Egyptian equivalent seems to be the G20 'prison' and the testimonials from there. But I'm sure the women and men 'low' enough to engage in such feminizing activities as protest were all just liars and asking for it anyway.

On a more generalized orbit, treatment like this is why I don't like the implied power behind a hearty 'fucc you'. People argue the phrase is untethered from its original intent, but it's still an invisible, pervasive part of a society where a woman can never be sure if a male accurser means it literally and is working up to the physical act, while a man is being told he's as weak as a woman (that creature below even the lowest of men) and will be degraded like one.

There's no friendly spin to it. The power of the phrase doesn't come from 'not really meaning it' even when the literal intent is meaningless to someone who only knows it is a powerful curse.

And at the same time as being allegedly meaningless, it's interesting that more people are willing to speak 'fucc'(aloud in the threat/curse form than the actual practical sexual act form. (to the point that I'm self censoring to get a version of the word across in a public forum).

That doesn't mean I want people to be painfully polite while being beaten. I just find being aware of the wounding power of small things informs the killing power of big things.

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