A controversial Egyptian MP has called for women to undergo mandatory “virginity tests” before being admitted to university.
Parliamentary member Elhamy Agina called on the Minister of Higher Education to issue a mandate requiring him or his officials to enforce the virginity tests.
He has suggested that university cards could only been issued to female students on completion of a virginity test.
In an interview with local media, he said: “Any girl who enters university, we have to check her medical examination to prove that she is a Miss. Therefore, each girl must present an official document upon being admitted to university stating she’s a Miss.”
The term “Miss” in Egyptian culture is often used to refer euphemistically as to whether a woman is a virgin.
Mr Agina reportedly added: “No one should be upset by this decision. If you’re upset then that means you’re scared that your daughter is in an ‘urfi’ marriage behind your back.”
Urfi marriages can be entered into without the approval of a bride’s guardian and can only require two witnesses, resulting in a cultural perception among some segments of Egyptian society that they are covert or secret marriages.
They are believed to be particularly common among young couples who may be unable to afford a large wedding ceremony.
Mr Agina has since defended his remarks, reportedly saying they had been misinterpreted and he was merely making a suggestion.
He said: “People have been attacking me since yesterday and they’re upset and such. I’ve decided not to deal with the media.
“I did not make a demand, I made a suggestion. There’s a big difference between a demand and a suggestion.”
He added that he made the remarks as part of a discussion as to how urfi marriages could be stopped: “I said, well, it’s not the government’s right to ask a girl or a man whether they’ve had an urfi marriage. But maybe, maybe… just as a suggestion that may or may not be implemented- the government could tell university hospitals to conduct virginity tests. And then the university can tell the student’s parents.”
In 2011, an Egyptian court ruled that forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons were unlawful.
The ruling came after a number of women were allegedly subjected to the treatment after being arrested during protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which provoked condemnation from human rights groups around the world.