Forced “virginity tests” on female detainees were ruled illegal in Egypt on Tuesday after a court ordered the practice to stop.
Hundreds of activists were in the Cairo courtroom to hear the judge, Aly Fekry, say the army could not use the test on women held in military prisons in a case filed by Samira Ibrahim, one of seven women subjected to the test after being arrested in Tahrir Square during a protest on March 9.
Fekry, head of the Cairo administrative court, decreed that what happened to Ibrahim and six other detainees was illegal and any similar occurrence in the future would also be considered illegal.
The court is expected to issue a further injunction against such tests and decree that the test is completely illegal, opening the door for financial compensation.
After the verdict, Ibrahim, 25, posted on Twitter: “Thank you to the people, thank you to Tahrir Square that taught me to challenge, thank you to the revolution that taught me perseverance.”
The 25-year-old marketing manager, who said she faced death threats for bringing the case, told CNN: “Justice has been served today.”
“These tests are a crime and also do not comply with the Constitution, which states equality between men and women. I will not give up my rights as a woman or a human being,” she said.
Ibrahim said her treatment showed the tests were intended to “degrade” the protesters.
“The military tortured me, labeled me a prostitute and humiliated me by forcing on me a virginity test conducted by a male doctor where my body was fully exposed while military soldiers watched,” she said.
After the verdict, she and others, including presidential candidate and former broadcaster Bothaina Kamel, marched to Tahrir Square.
Egyptian academic and columnist Amira Nowaira gave a cautious welcome to the ruling.
Speaking from Alexandria, she said: “Nobody had heard of the virginity tests before, so it is good a court has said they cannot be used. People should be prosecuted, but it’s going to be hard, even assigning blame will be difficult. Who is ultimately responsible?”
The head of the judicial military authority, General Adel Morsy, was cited in the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper as saying that the administrative court ruling could not be implemented because there was nothing in the statutes that govern military prisons about permitting the carrying out of virginity tests.
Ibrahim will return to court in February to appeal against a one-year suspended sentence she received for insulting authorities and participating in an unauthorized assembly in March.