In September last year, an Egyptian Parliament Member suggested that women should be forced to undergo a “virginity test” before being admitted to college. For those who fail the test and are not proven virgins, their parents must be contacted immediately. The suggestion is way beyond bad, because it’s not only about invading a woman’s body, degrading her, or causing her physical or psychological harm, it extends to reducing her whole being to a few drops of blood.
Being raised in an Arab country doesn’t give you much of an opportunity to learn about your body or sexuality. As a girl, you grow up learning that your body isn’t yours – it’s your father’s, it’s your husband’s, it’s your family’s honor, and you’re no more than of a keeper for you own ‘chastity’ until you’re safely delivered to a husband.
Because of this, women are sometimes denied the right to justice against sexual abuse, as well as the right to sexual pleasure. To find out how young Egyptian women feel about this, I spoke to some of them in this series of monologues. In our fourth week, we have Nada, a political science student:
“My father is Egyptian and mother is European, so she taught me about my body, but she put a lot of pressure on herself to raise me according to Egyptian norms. She always told me that I’m only allowed to have sex out of love and only with a husband. My mother always made me believe that a non-virgin girl is easy and that men would abuse her so I had to protect my virginity so that nobody uses me.
I personally don’t know girls who are keeping their virginity out of fear, but I was like that myself. I was scared of the societal ‘lynching’ if someone finds out. I currently live outside Egypt, and this is one of the reasons I’m worried about going back.
I’ve struggled for a really long time to accept sex as part of human life. and the fact that I don’t necessarily have to be married to have it. And since I knew I wouldn’t get married, not soon at least, and definitely not according to our sick norms, I decided to let go of virginity.
I experienced a lot of verbal abuse from my father who thought I wasn’t virgin because I had male friends. I was a virgin back then so I decided to go take a virginity test myself and have it written on paper, so that he would stop humiliating me, I didn’t do it in the end but his humiliation drove me to that extent.
My mother knows I’m not a virgin, and I feel she has distanced herself from me emotionally. I understand that she’s worried, but that’s ridiculous. If a man doesn’t want me because of my genitals then he’s not worth spending my life with. This is me now, and if nobody accepts me then I accept myself and that’s enough.
Many Egyptian girls are taught that they’re trophies for their future husbands, and even highly educated women believe that this is their sole purpose in life, which is sad. I think women need to be taught how to have a healthy relationship with their bodies. If after years of going to school you need approval from a man – to exist, work, or do anything you want – then you don’t deserve this education.”
Editor’s Note: Over the course of two months, Sarah Marzouk reached out to young Egyptian women about society’s obsession with virginity. Despite the silence around sex and sexuality, these women were both brave and kind to have opened up and shared their stories and break that silence. Check out the next in this series, to be released on March 16, 2017!