Egyptian lawmaker and MP Ilhami Agena has called for mandatory virginity screenings for all women seeking admission to university.
Women’s rights group the National Council for Women was incensed by the suggestion and protested against it. The state-sanctioned group demands the expulsion of Agena and further criminal investigation into his conduct. Head of the group, Maya Morsi filed a legal complaint against Agena believing his behaviour to be unacceptable and harmful to the reputation of Egypt and its people.
In response to critics Agena said “I did not make any demand. I made a suggestion. There’s a big difference between a demand and a suggestion.” Agena furthered his suggestion saying that universities ought to inform the parents of applicants who fail the virginity tests.
Egypt is a conservative Muslim country and there women’s virginity is considered a matter of family honour. A woman’s sexual conduct can affect her “Miss” status, which Agena also commented on saying that women who want to study should prove they are a “Miss.” Typically, the term “Miss” is used a euphemism for virgin.
Agena’s remarks were made within a wider discussion about informal gawaz orfy marriages. Also known as urfis, these marriages are an inexpensive, religiously sanctioned way of having sex. Considered as a an easy route to marriage and sex, urfi marriages have grown in popularity as a result of high youth unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing. Muslim clerics largely oppose such arrangements and wider society views them as somewhat secretive and improper.
Another objector to Agena, prominent Egyptian feminist Mona Elthaway tweeted “I see Egyptian parliamentarian…Agena’s obsession with women’s vaginas continues.”
Agena made another suggestion to women a month ago that FGM may be need to be enforced to curb sexual potency and balance it with that of men.
Former examples of regulating women’s sexual conduct include what happened during the protest of 2011 in Cairo Tahrir Square. After the protest against Hosni Mubarak’s government at the time, the military conducted virginity tests on 19 arrested women. Several women were also sexually attacked that day and Amnesty International holds that these tests were in fact guises for possible rapes.