Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School

Submission to the African Commission on Human Rights on “Virginity Testing” in Egypt

In January 2014, the Center partnered with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and INTERIGHTS on an innovative submission to the African Commission on Human Rights. EIPR and INTERIGHTS recently initiated a complaint before the Commission – Mahmoud and Abdel-Rahman v Egypt – following Egypt’s failure to address multiple violations by army personnel against female detainees in what is known as the “virginity testing” case.

In March 2011, Samira Ibrahim and Rasha Abdel-Rahman suffered abuses by military personnel while they were being detained at a military prison after attending a sit-in at Tahrir Square. Together with fifteen other female detainees, Ibrahim and Abdel-Rahman were subjected to a forced genital examination to determine their virginity. Members of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) made statements that “virginity tests” were aimed at protecting soldiers from allegations of rape. In March 2012, a military court found the doctor accused of performing the forced genital examinations innocent of all charges.

The Center provided research assistance to INTERIGHTS and EIPR in developing a submission on the merits to the African Commission, alleging violations of the rights to non-discrimination; equal protection before the law; prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and independence of the courts in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Center focused in particular on current international and regional human rights standards, case law and commentary on gender-based violence as discrimination; the state’s due diligence duty with respect to sexual violence; gender stereotyping as discrimination; and sexual violence in public and political space.