Egyptian MP calls for women to undergo virginity tests before being admitted to university

The MP has suggested the parents of women who fail the tests could be contacted by universities and informed 

Siobhan Fenton
Social Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 01 October 2016 13:31 BST
Egyptian women at a 2011 rally against virginity tests
Egyptian women at a 2011 rally against virginity tests

An Egyptian MP has called for women to be forced to undergo virginity tests before being admitted to university, it has been reported.

Parliamentary member Elhamy Agina called on the Minister of Higher Education to issue a mandate requiring him or his officials to enforce the virginity tests, Egyptian Streets reports. He has suggested that university cards could only been issued to female students on completition of a virginity test.

In an interview with local media, he said: “Any girl who enters university, we have to check her medical examination to prove that she is a Miss. Therefore, each girl must present an official document upon being admitted to university stating she’s a Miss.”

The term "Miss" in Egyptian culture is often used to refer euphemistically as to whether a woman is a virgin.

Mr Agina reportedly added: “No one should be upset by this decision. If you’re upset then that means you’re scared that your daughter is in an ‘urfi’ marriage behind your back.”

Urfi marriages can be entered into without the approval of a bride’s guardian and can only require two witnesses, resulting in a cultural perception among some segments of Egyptian society that they are covert or secret marriages. They are believed to be particularly common among young couples who may be unable to afford a large wedding ceremony.

Mr Agina has since defended his remarks, reportedly saying they had been misinterpreted and he was merely making a suggestion. He said: “People have been attacking me since yesterday and they’re upset and such. I’ve decided not to deal with the media.

“I did not make a demand, I made a suggestion. There’s a big difference between a demand and a suggestion.”

He added that he made the remarks as part of a discussion as to how urfi marriages could be stopped: “I said, well, it’s not the government’s right to ask a girl or a man whether they’ve had an urfi marriage. But maybe, maybe… just as a suggestion that may or may not be implemented- the government could tell university hospitals to conduct virginity tests. And then the university can tell the student’s parents.”

His alleged remarks have been criticised online. Prominent Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy tweeted: "I see Egyptian parliamentarian Elhamy Agena's [sic] obsession with women's vaginas continues".

Journalist Jacky Habib tweeted: "How about we have mandatory IQ tests for politicians who aim to mandate nonsense like this".

Mr Agina is known for his remarks which many have perceived as courting controversy. Earlier this month, he called for Egyptian women to undergo female mutilation in order to “reduce their sexual desires” because Egyptian men are “sexually weak”.

Last week he also prompted outrage when he said people who died when a migrant boat capsized while en route to Italy “deserve no sympathy”.

In 2011, an Egyptian court ruled that forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons were unlawful. The ruling came after a number of women were allegedly subjected to the treatment after being arrested during protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which provoked condemnation from human rights groups around the world.

So-called virginity tests are practised in a number of different countries around the world. In Indonesia, female recruits must undergo them to join the military or national police. The tests see doctors attempt to deduce the state of the hymen using a so-called "two finger test".

Critics of the tests say they are degrading and can traumatise women. The scientific basis for them has also been questioned as many critics say the methodology is flawed as hymens can break for various reasons including penetrative intercourse, such as during exercise or sport. The World Health Organisation has criticised the tests saying: “There is no place for virginity testing, it has no scientific validity”.

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