'Anyone who hasn’t been raped is the exception': Egyptian officials accused of 'systematic' sexual violence
Women and girls in Egypt are being subjected to sexual assault and rape by police, security and military officials in an atttempt to quell protests and force confessions, according to a new human rights report
Egyptian women protest to condemn the army's use of violence against female protesters in CairoPhoto: EPA/MOHAMED OMAR
Victims are generally women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, students and activists.
The report found they have been subjected to sexual assault, rape with objects, electrocution of their genitalia and vaginal ‘virginity tests’– a practice supposedly aimed at determining whether a woman has had sexual intercourse.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government haspublically announcedthat fighting sexual violence is a priority. But FIDH’s report - ‘Exposing state hypocrisy: sexual violence by security forces in Egypt’ - revealed “widespread sexual violence.”
Sexual violence was said to be carried out indiscriminately at checkpoints, university entrances, and at detention centres during security checks.
“Sexual assault is virtually systematic in the case of arrest,” said a member of an Egyptian women’s rights organisation who wanted to remain anonymous.
The report also said young women were sexually assaulted as part of a “policy of humiliation”, and that women’s niqabs were ripped off by security staff and police.
Women wearing veils have been targeted by supporters of General el-Sisi, while women not wearing the veil are perceived to be Christians and have been threatened by Islamists.
'They tried to rape me, to make my husband confess'
The report also highlighted claims made by female political prisoners and activists around sexual violence, with women arrested during demonstrations “regularly subjected to sexual violence and other abuses.”
Egyptian army soldiers arrest a female protester during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo back in 2011 (Reuters)
They said their scarves were pulled off or used to drag them along the ground, while obligatory body searchers by police officers and soldiers would be used as opportunities to grope, or rape them.
Women were also found to be arbitrarily detained and used as bargaining tools by police who wanted their husbands or fathers to confess to a crime.
One wife of a detainee said she was taken to Medinat Nasr police station where her husband was, and beaten in front of him.
“They tried to rape me. My husband begged them to leave me alone, shouting, ‘let her go, I’m going to talk.’ They said to him, ‘speak first and we’ll let her go after.’
“They pulled off my veil and started again; I began screaming. My husband said to them, ‘for pity’s sake stop, tell me what I have to say, tell me what I’m accused of, I’ll say everything that you want me to.’”
The report also found that women were regularly sexually assaulted inside detention centres and prisons, where they were usually guarded by men, in breach of international UN standards.
The woman was being detained after filing a complaint of sexual harassment, and was awaiting a ‘medical examination’ when she was raped.
Egyptian women protested against army attacks on female demonstrators back in 2011
Her detention was then extended by a further 24 hours, and she was forced to undergo a second ‘examination’.
Children were also found to have been systematically sexually assaulted in juvenile detention centres, typically by adult prisoners, while security guards failed to investigate allegations or take measure to prevent attacks.
A former employee at El Eqabiya detention centre said: “Anyone who hasn’t been raped is the exception. The director is fully aware.
“There are many deaths but they are not even reported.”
Mass arrests of LGBT citizens were also found to be recurrent, with one human rights organisation suggesting 77 homosexuals and transsexuals were arrested between October 2013 and May 2014.
Though Egypt does not explicitly ban homosexuality, those arrested are charged with ‘debauchery’, or ‘sexual indecency’ and ‘endangering public morals’.
Many reported forced anal examinations, rape with batons and sexual assaults by guards, according to the report.
It found that sexual violence has increased in the last two years.