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Two years ago, during the arab spring, women who’d been arrested for protesting in Tahrir square were forced to undergo virginity tests administered by the army. One year ago, Egypt’s army chief Abdel Fattah al Sisi attempted to justify the tests by claiming they were a way of protecting the women from being rape, and the men from being accused of rape.
Another year gone by, and Tahrir square is full again. This time, Sisi is attempting to make his characterization of his motives true. Today, in response to an astoundingly high number of rapes committed in the midst of the protests, the army has cordoned off a circle, in the middle of Tahrir square where women can demonstrate without being at risk of being raped.
The risk is very real – nearly a hundred women were raped in Tahrir square this week alone. However much of a lie Sisi’s after the fact explanation of the virginity tests may have been – and even if it was his intention to protect – the harm he caused by inflicting these so called tests on women prisoners and publicizing their results to the public and their family seems to outdo the potential benefits he’d intended by far.
On the one hand it’s great to see some effort being made to help women participate, but on the other it’s absolutely appalling that the reason they would need help is that men will rape them otherwise, and ever so slightly worrying that those who are protecting them are those who were responsible for the virginity tests two years ago. But also, looking at what is happening right now, it is not clear that there are still many women in the middle of Tahrir square, nor that the army, busy as it is with intervention, still has the resources to protect them.
The second annual Dorothy Edgington Lectures will be given by Professor Rae Langton
January 24th-25th 2014, Birkbeck College, LONDON
As well as giving two public lectures, Rae Langton will lead a 2 day graduate workshop on race and gender hate speech, and closely related topics. We invite submissions on these topics, from graduate and postgraduate students, to be presented at the workshop.
1st October 2013
(1) Papers should be no more than 3,000 words (including footnotes, excluding bibliography), to be presented in 30 minutes
(2) They should be prepared for blind refereeing
(3) They should include a cover-sheet, with the title, an abstract, your name, institution affiliation, and student status
(4) They should be formatted with 1.5 spacing, 10pt font, and saved as .pdfs, or .doc (not .docx)
(5) Send all submissions to: email@example.com
Accommodation for student speakers will be available with members of the department.
Workshop registration is free for graduate students, but there are limited spaces – to register for either the workshop or the lectures email: edgingtonlectures AT gmail.com
For more information, please see http://edgington-lectures.blogspot.co.uk/
“The International Association of Women Philosophers is a professional association and network that provides a forum for discussion, interaction and cooperation among women engaged in teaching and research in all aspects of philosophy, with a particular emphasis on feminist philosophy.”
One (of several) important background story as far as women’s particular motivation for participating in the protests is the ongoing, and recently revived threat on their reproductive rights. One year ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan voiced his conviction that abortion was tantamount to murder, (and the result of a foreign plot to prevent the growth of Turkey) and propose that it should be made illegal. C-sections, which he had heard somewhere might prevent women from having more than two children were also targeted. Turkish women, he said, should have three children a-piece. Although the bill was dropped, (as far as abortion is concerned) the government still speaks in favour of early marriage and procreation.
This article by Şerife Tekin gives a very useful outline of the state of bioethics in Turkey, with particular emphasis on the government’s paternalistic attitude towards women’s reproductive rights.
The conclusion she draws is particularly worrying, highlighting the way in which ministers’ proclamation, whether or not they end up as laws, have a huge influence on the national psyche :
Nonetheless, Erdoğan’s stance has influenced popular opinion about abortions in the mainly Muslim nation, increasing the stigma, and having an effect on women’s access to abortion. For instance, in most public health institutions, family doctors who encounter a patient who is pregnant or who is interested in having an abortion notify either her husband or her father. Men in modern Turkey generally have the final say over women’s bodies and reproductive rights .