CAIRO: Virginity tests, sexual assaults, brutal beating, stripping and the continuous violations of the military police against women will not hinder their perseverance in going out and demanding their rights, victims and activists asserted on Thursday.
“SCAF, we will strip you. I’m from Upper Egypt and I’ve set my mind on it,” said Samira Ibrahim, who was subjected to a forced virginity test in military prison along with six other activists last March. On Tuesday she won the landmark court verdict ordering the military to immediately stop these forced tests.
“We’re staying on the streets until our demands are met. The people will win at the end,” she said.
“We’ve been arrested beaten and assaulted, we don’t care anymore. First we used to be scared but now we’re not; they’ve broken our innocence,” added the 25-year-old.
Speaking out against the continued violations by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces towards women, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, in the framework of the efforts of the Coalition of Egyptian Feminist Organizations, brought together rights activists and victims at the Journalists Syndicate.
“The honor of the female is the honor of the revolution,” said Gamal Eid, executive director of Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
“Less than one month after the dictator has stepped down we have seen the most vicious violation against women,” he said, referring to the virginity tests protestors were subjected to on March 9.
The methods the military is using against women has one objective that is to send them a message “to stay at home”, because “this is what will happen to you when you go out,” explained Magda Adli from Al Nadeem Center. She pointed out that this has been used over the past 60 years or so because “assaulting the female is breaking her will.”
Since the events at the cabinet of ministers where there was a heightened level of violence against women, Al Nadeem Centre for Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, has been receiving more reports.
Ibrahim has set an example for women to speak out when they are violated, Adli said. However reporting similar assaults does not only depend on the strength of the woman’s character or the courage after finding someone speaking out, she added.
“There are a number of issues to take into consideration.
“It’s about a readiness to recall what happened, a belief that what happened does not disgrace us, that we are victims and not criminals and there is no guilt, shame, disgrace,” Adli explained.
“It also makes a huge difference when you’ve got family support, and if they meet with activists and rights groups,” she added, noting that many women from the March 9 virginity tests didn’t reach out for help because their families prevented them.
Solidarity is crucial in such battle. “Our power is in our unity,” said lawyer Ragia Omran, who urged people to show solidarity with Ibrahim on Jan. 3 at C 28 at her military court case against the army officers who performed the virginity tests.
Activists from women rights groups also invited people to come show their solidarity with Hend Badawi on Saturday.
Badawi’s family have reportedly confined her at home after she has refused to meet Field Marshall, Hussein Tantawi, when he visited the injured from the security crackdown on the sit-in outside the Cabinet headquarters.
The recognition women and their rights are currently receiving is a far cry from how they were attacked when they first started voicing their opinion about being violated and sidelined after the revolution during the women’s march on International Women’s Rights Day on March 1 earlier this year.
The female demonstrators were not attacked by the police then but by fellow citizens on Tahrir Square.
“At the beginning people didn’t want to believe the level of injustice females are subjected to, but after the pictures and footage [from the cabinet] people were moved and wanted to go out and speak out against this and show their support,” said Azza Soliman, head of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance.
“There is a long way to go and we need to always relate our rights with democracy. The freedom of the country is the freedom of the women,” she added.
“Our coming battle is the constitution, we must place a constitution that guarantees women’s rights and equality,” said Soliman.