Egypt: If civilian men don’t get you, the state will

flag-of-egyptRegional experts agree (discussed here previously): Egypt is, by far, the worst place to be a woman in the entire “Arab World” right now.

They’ve hidden that nasty reputation by distractingly pointing to real but less substantive issues like driving bans and clothing requirements in the Gulf states. But in terms of basic human rights, being female in Egypt is a pretty heinous experience right now. And when anything bad happens, their families often abandon them.

The latest affront is state-backed “virginity tests” on women detained by security services. This euphemism itself hides the reality of the situation: members of state security and quasi-medical professionals aggressively and intrusively “examining” (read: violating, since it’s not optional) women they believe have crossed some moral boundary, usually after having been assaulted by civilian men (an extremely frequent and ever-present threat since the fall of the Mubarak regime). These examinations are neither medical in nature nor scientifically based (unfortunately, in the West, many myths persist also about the topic — so don’t feel too superior, American readers).

To top it all off, the new dictator and future president is a vocal supporter of this violation as a regular tactic. ´╗┐

That’s the real irony of the 2013 military coup d’├ętat: Egyptians opposed to rule by political Islamists and supportive of the coup claimed to support secularism and oppose religious rule…yet they essentially want all the same abusive laws, customs, and policies one might expect them to oppose. They just want the military to promulgate and enforce those practices in a secular, customary grounding instead of letting religious and religio-political leaders apply the practices based on a traditional religious grounding. Radical religious politics is just the other side of the coin to the socially conservative military rulers.

Whether the Islamists rule Egypt or the military rules Egypt, 90% of women 15-49 will have endured female genital mutilation — and the next generation probably will too. Same with pervasive violent assaults and harassment. The past three years, including many of the street demonstrations, was nothing more than a bunch of men — whose only major difference in ideology was that each group believed its men and not the other men should be in power — playing musical chairs with no thought toward changing the culture or policies that are terrorizing Egyptian women.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.
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