Stripped, Groped and Violated: Egyptian Women Describe Abuse by the State


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These women were either arrested for speaking out or had gone to the authorities to report a crime.

In each case, they said, they were sexually abused by the officials sworn to protect them.

Whether they are victims of crimes, witnesses or the accused, women who encounter Egypt’s criminal justice system risk being taken aside and stripped, groped, prodded and violated.

This treatment is illegal, but in this authoritarian and patriarchal country, there is almost nothing they can do about it.

The women in these videos, speaking publicly for the first time, described sexual violations that they said were committed in police stations, prisons and hospitals.

Some occurred during routine searches by the police or prison guards, the women said. Others were carried out by state-employed doctors ordered to conduct invasive physical exams, including so-called virginity tests.

There is no public data on the number of these incidents, which rights groups say may amount to torture and sexual assault. And women in Egypt rarely report them because sexual assault victims are often shunned and disparaged.

But civil society groups, experts, lawyers and therapists say there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it happens frequently.

The New York Times found a dozen women who recounted similar experiences. Most spoke to us anonymously, fearing arrest and worried about stigmatizing their families.

Government officials have generally dismissed and denied accounts of systemic abuse, insisting that they are conducting standard searches that are lawful and necessary in investigations or to keep contraband out of prisons.

Officials at the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the police and prisons, and the Public Prosecutor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

One police officer, however, who worked for years in a police precinct and a prison, said that sexual abuse of women by legal authorities was “everywhere.” Speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid of retribution, he said that the aim was not to gather evidence or search for contraband but to “humiliate your humanity.”

The New York Times


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