Whenever a society sets apart a second class of citizens, that group bears a disproportionate burden to keep the peace by knowing its “place.” To have an altercation with the ruling class (no matter who started it) is to have been found outside of that place, and thus to forfeit any protection that remains under that social structure. That is the case with the rights of women and unbelievers (dhimmis) subjugated under Islamic law. Hence the blaming and shunning of the woman in the report below.
The courts have ruled against these state-sponsored sexual assaults of female detainees, but that has not improved conditions for the victim who dared to publicize what happened to her. “Egypt’s Women Find Power Still Hinges on Men,” by David D. Kirkpatrick for the New York Times, January 9:
CAIRO “” At first Samira Ibrahim was afraid to tell her father that Egyptian soldiers had detained her in Tahrir Square in Cairo, stripped off her clothes, and watched as she was forcibly subjected to a “virginity test.”
But when her father, a religious conservative, saw electric prod marks on her body, they revived memories of his own detention and torture under President Hosni Mubarak’s government. “History is repeating itself,” he told her, and together they vowed to file a court case against the military rulers, to claim “my rights,” as Ms. Ibrahim later recalled.
That case has proved successful so far. For the first time last month, an administrative court challenged the authority of the military council and banned such “tests.” Ms. Ibrahim will ask a military court on Sunday to hold the officers accountable.
But nearly a year after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, Ms. Ibrahim’s story in many ways illustrates the paradoxical position of women in the new Egypt. Emboldened by the revolution to claim a new voice in public life, many are finding that they are still dependent on the protection of men, and that their greatest power is not as direct actors but as symbols of the military government’s repression. It is not a place where Egyptian feminists had hoped women would be, back in the heady days of the revolution, when they played an active role, side by side with men, to bring down a dictator. […]
At the same time, the revolution has opened the door for the ascendance of conservative Islamist parties, including religious extremists who want to roll back some of the rights women do have. The mainstream Muslim Brotherhood is poised to win nearly half of the seats in Parliament, when voting is completed this week, while the more extreme Salafis are on track to win more than 20 percent.
While Brotherhood leaders talk of encouraging traditional roles but respecting women’s career choices, many Salafis oppose allowing women to play leadership roles and favor regulating issues like women’s dress to impose Islamic standards of modesty. “We have major concerns because what they are proposing is very oppressive,” said Ghada Shabandar, a veteran human rights activist. […]
But the stigma attached to victims of sexual abuse continues to force many to remain silent.
Six other women were subjected to “virginity tests” by the soldiers that night in March when Ms. Ibrahim was assaulted. The humiliation was so great, Ms. Ibrahim said, that she initially hoped to die. “I kept telling myself, “˜People get heart attacks, why don’t I get a heart attack and just die like them?” “
Her mother’s advice was to keep silent, if she ever hoped to marry, or even lead a dignified life in their village in rural Upper Egypt, Ms. Ibrahim said in an interview.
When she did speak out, Egyptian new media shunned her, she said, and only the international news media would cover her story. She received telephone calls at all hours threatening rape or death. But with the support of her father “” an Islamist activist who was detained and tortured two decades ago “” she persevered, and next week will go back to military court in an attempt to hold the perpetrators accountable as well….