Education and access to having one has always been a goal families strive for, but in Egypt, that access to education for women may be in jeopardy. Young adults who aim to continue their education in college are usually filled with excitement, but a new proposed law may change the future of many, especially young women.
In a recent article, a new law is being proposed in Egypt, which would mandate every young woman to be subjected to a virginity test before being allowed to attend a university. An MP lawmaker, Elhamy Agina, has tried to have this passed as a law to curtail “Urfi marriages”. Also known as “customary marriages”, they are perceived as secret marriages since they are performed by a cleric and only require two witnesses. In addition, these unions are not officially registered and are contrary to their culture of having both parents’ blessings.
Agina believes that prior to being admitted to any university, young Egyptian women should be subjected to a virginity test to ensure that they are indeed a “Miss”, which would indicate that they are still virgins. Once the test has concluded that the young woman is still a virgin, then and only then would she be given a document stating that she has passed and can be admitted to that specific university.
According to Egyptian culture, premarital sex is forbidden and while there are young couples who go through Urfi marriages, it’s a way of eliminating wedding costs and unwanted pressure from their families. For conservative clerics and officials like Agina, Urfi marriages are seen as a way to skirt around pre-marital sex.
I am not familiar with Egyptian culture, but I don’t think I’m far off in perceiving this proposed law as a violation of women’s rights. Why should anyone, let alone a government official have the right to control a woman’s body? What does a woman’s virginity have anything to do with one’s right to an education? How is withholding a woman’s education because she may not be a virgin not considered as a human rights violation?
As someone whose family and culture have always placed education as a high priority, I find it scary and ludicrous how the views of one man can alter a woman’s scholastic future. Even worse, the views he espouses can hurt not only female students but every woman he feels should be controlled.
Since the publication of the article, Agina has come under fire and has changed his tune somewhat, citing that the virginity tests were a “suggestion”, not a “demand”. Changing the term from a “demand” to a “suggestion” does not diminish the intent of subjugating women to further one lawmaker’s desire for control.
Will this proposed law gain enough support to be passed? I don’t know the answer, but I sincerely hope not. As a mother of a young woman who, herself, is almost a college student, it is my hope that Egyptian women stand up against a law that will not only control their future, but those of generations to come.
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This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tes Silverman.