A senior Egyptian general admitted that "virginity checks" were performed on some women arrested in Cairo on March 9, after earlier denials by military authorities, CNN reported Tuesday.
Questions about the practice of checking women to see if they were virgins arose when Amnesty International published a report on March 23 saying that female demonstrators arrested during a protest on March 9 had been beaten, subjected to electric shocks, strip searched and forced to submit to virginity checks. At the time the report was published, Egyptian Maj. Amr Imam said that 17 women had been arrested, but denied the allegations of torture and virginity checks.
On Monday, an Egyptian general who asked not to be identified told CNN that the virginity tests had indeed been performed, and defended the actions:
"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)."
He said the tests were conducted so that the women would not be able to claim that they had been sexually abused while in custody.
Amnesty International condemned the general's comments on Tuesday and called for an investigation.
"This general's implication that only virgins can be victims of rape is a long-discredited sexist attitude and legal absurdity," the Amnesty International statement said.
Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces, said the "accusations that we did virginity tests are not acceptable. We denied it then and we deny it now."
Egyptian activists will hold an online protest on Wednesday to press the military leadership to investigate soldiers who abused pro-democracy demonstrators, including women who were detained and forced to take "virginity tests," the Guardian reported.
According to CBS News, on March 9, with the Egyptian uprising still celebrating its success in ousting former President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, the military moved to clear Tahrir Square in Cairo of protesters, and at least 18 women were arrested in the security sweep.
Most of the women were brought to trial on March 11 and released two days later, some given a one-year suspended sentence, Amnesty International said in its March 23 report.
Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty International report, described to CNN how, on March 9, uniformed soldiers tied her near Tahrir Square, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hosseini said she was taken with other female prisoners to a military detention center in Heikstep and subjected to a "virginity test." Hosseini said her captors had threatened her with stun guns if she didn't comply.