In a setback for women’s rights in Egypt, a military court has found an army doctor, Admed Adel, “not guilty” on charges of conducting forced “virginity tests” on women protesters. The judge said that he found contradictions in witness statements, though plaintiff Samira Ibrahim said that one witness had changed their story at the last minute before Adel’s trial.
As many as 18 women came forward to say that they were forced to undergo “virginity tests” which amounted to rape after they were detained following protests, says Al Jazeera. Adel has been accused of “public indecency” and “disobeying military orders” but the initial charges of rape have been dropped. Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh described chaos in the courtroom as the verdict was announced and said that protesters outside the courtroom were chanting and calling for an end to military rule by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been ruling Egypt since the fall of Hosni Mubarak over a year ago in February of 2011.
Hassiba Hadj Sah-raoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, said that the ruling has sent a “wrong message.” Noting that the tests amounted to torture, Sah-raoui said that the verdict “shows that women’s rights are not important in Egypt.”
A video of military personnel dragging and beating a woman whose shirt had been stripped to reveal her bra caused worldwide outrage in December. Other video footage showed security forces beating women and an Egyptian court called for a halt for forced virginity tests on women who have been detained in military prisons. But the verdict clearing Adel of charges is a troubling indicator of how much, or rather how little, women’s rights are respected and valued in post-Mubarak Egypt.
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Photo of a woman at a protest in Egypt on March 9, 2012, by Gigi Ibrahim