MEPs condemn sexual assaults and forced “virginity tests” in Libya and Egypt

The European Parliament has strongly denounced sexual assaults on women in Libya and Egypt as well as the forced “virginity tests” that have taken place in Egypt.

Women’s rights must be respected in the new democratic and legal structures of these societies, MEPs said in a resolution adopted on 7th April.

The Parliament pointed out that “women have actively participated in the uprisings for more democracy, rights and freedoms in North Africa and the Middle East” but that “the incumbent regimes in Libya and Egypt have resorted to sexual assaults as part of the conflict surrounding these revolutions.”

MEPs called on the Commission and Member State governments “to strongly oppose the use of sexual assaults on, and intimidation and targeting of, women in Libya and Egypt”.

The Parliament “strongly condemns forced ‘virginity tests’ inflicted by the Egyptian army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square and considers this practice as unacceptable, as it amounts to a form of torture,” MEPs said in the resolution.

The case of a Libyan woman, Iman al-Obeidi, who told reporters in a Tripoli hotel about being gang-raped and abused by soldiers and is now being sued for defamation by the men she is accusing of rape is highlighted in the resolution, which was adopted by show of hands.

“The changes taking place in North Africa and the Middle East must contribute towards the ending of discrimination against women and their full participation in society on equal terms with men,” the European Parliament said.

The MEPs said specific actions should be taken “with a view to achieving an effective and systematic equality approach in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) countries.”