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Egypt 'virginity test' victims demand redress, take case to African Commission: Rights group

Victims say Egyptian authorities violated the African Charter.

Samira women's rights EgyptEnlarge
Egyptian women shout political slogans during a demonstration in Cairo on March 16, 2012, in solidarity with Samira Ibrahim, an Egyptian woman who brought a case against an army doctor, Ahmed Adel, accused of conducting forced 'virginity tests' on female protestors. Adel was cleared of conducting the test on Samira Ibrahim after the judge found the witness statements to be 'contradictory', the official MENA news agency said. (Mohammed Hassam/AFP/Getty Images)

Samira Ibrahim, Rasha Abdel-Rahma, and Jihane Mahmoud, three victims of the so-called "virginity tests" conducted by the Egyptian military on a group of female protesters last spring, are taking their case to the African Commission.

Rights groups have filed a case on their behalf asking the Commission to pursue legal action against Egyptian authorities for what they say is a failure to redress victims of "virginity tests" conducted by the military last spring, activists said. 

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Two major rights groups, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and INTERIGHTS, announced Monday that they have submitted the case to the Commission. 

Their case rests on alleged violations of the African Charter, to which Egypt is a signatory. 

Ibrahim first brought the incident to the attention of Egyptian courts, which resulted in a December ruling prohibiting the practice.

However, a military court decision later dismissed Ibrahim’s separate case against the officer she says administered the March 2011 test to her and over a dozen other women. A "virginity test," as it is known, involves the forceful penetration for hymeneal blood believed to establish virginity.

Angered by the military court ruling, Ibrahim, Abdel-Rahma and Mahmoud have since united to take the case to the African rights court. They demand the civil court prosecution of everyone involved in the testing procedure, a ruling from Egypt’s Code of Military Justice that would take other such abuses outside military courts, greater legal protections for civilians detained in military prisons, promises that such testing will never happen again, and an acknowledgement from the military that they indeed took place, according to the EIPR statement

EIPR Legal Adviser to the North African Litigation Initiative, Bahaa Ezzelarab, explained that in Egypt, “[m]ilitary courts lack the necessary independence to provide effective redress in cases like this."

"As a result," Ezzelarab said, "military personnel continue to be unaccountable for violations against civilians.”

Women in Egypt face widespread sexual abuse and violence.

Egypt Independent this week reported that a 16-year-old girl who spit in the face of a man believed to have groped her was shot and killed by him in the country's conservative Upper Egypt region. The man denies killing Eman Mostafa two weeks ago, and the report has not yet been independently confirmed. 

Egyptian authorities also beat a female protester wearing the abaya, a traditional long black cloak worn by many pious Muslim women, so violently last year that her torso and blue bra were publicly exposed in an incident that sparked global outrage.

Footage of the so-called “blue bra” girl, caught on cell phone cameras, made world headlines as just another reminder of the struggles Egyptian women face.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/120928/egypt-virginity-test-victims-demand-redress-take-case