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 who share what it is like in this series of monologues. In our fifth week, we have Yasmine, an English literature student:
“As far as I can remember, my parents never discussed anything about my body with me until I got my period. They didn’t even tell me about that beforehand, although I had an older sister and still, they didn’t talk about much besides hygiene and about how I had to preserve my ‘virginity’. For some reason, I was never allowed to wear extremely short-sleeved T-shirts nor anything that was above my knees, until I wore the hijab.
I remember learning more about my body on my own, through the internet, and so on.
People around here, in Egypt, basically think that a girl who lost her virginity is a slut. I remember my mother once had some doubts, at a time when I had a short period, and I continuously complained about a stomach ache. But she never went as far as admitting them to me.
It’s quite hard to help those self-oppressed girls, once the ideas are implanted in their brains the same way as any other archaic stupid idea has been imposed on to us from older generations. Maybe the only thing that will work is educating everyone in Egyptian society about the truth, and how virginity in the end is just a myth.”
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 23, 2017!