Obsession with virginity continues: Egyptian MP calls for virginity tests for women to be allowed to attend university

Published October 2nd, 2016 - 08:46 GMT
Member of Parliament Elhamy Agina. (AFP/File)
Member of Parliament Elhamy Agina. (AFP/File)

Egyptian MP Elhamy Agina has called for women to be forced to undergo virginity tests before being admitted to university, according to reports from Egyptian Streets.

The parliamentary member urged the Minister of Higher Education to issue a mandate requiring him or his officials to enforce the virginity tests, Egyptian Streets reports. Agina proposed that university cards only be issued to female students upon completition of a virginity test.

Mr Agina 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 only require two witnesses and do not need the approval of the bride's guardian which has led to a cultural perception  that they are 'secret' marriages. Urfi marriages particularly common among young couples who cannot afford a large wedding ceremony. Controversially, urfi marriages are also entered into by individuals seeking sexual relations that are acceptable within Islamic law resulting in the ceremony providing cover for acts of prostitution and sex tourism.   

Mr Agina has since revised his stance, arguing that his comments were a mere suggestion which has been misinterpreted. The MP commented: "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."

Agina further commented that his remarks were intended as a solution 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."

Social media users also criticised the comments. Prominent Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy tweeted: "I see Egyptian parliamentarian Elhamy Agena's [sic] obsession with women's vaginas continues".

Journalist Jacky Habib suggested on Twitter: "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, Mr Agina urged Egyptian women undergo female genital mutilation to "reduce their sexual desires" because Egyptian men are "sexually weak".

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 subjected to the treatment after being arrested during protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, which provoked condemnation from human rights groups around the world.

The so-called virginity tests are practised in a number of different countries around the world. In Indonesia, doctors attempt to deduce the state of the hymen using a so-called "two finger test" and this is a requirement for female recruits to join the military or national police. 

Critics of the tests say they are degrading, infantilizing and can traumatise women. The so called tests are also invalid and have no scientific basis as hymens can break for a variety of 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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