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Egypt court bans 'virginity tests'

An Egyptian court has ordered the country's army rulers to stop the use of so-called "virginity tests" on female detainees, in a rare condemnation by a civilian tribunal of a military practice that has caused uproar among activists.

The virginity test allegations surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plain clothes attacked protesters and the army cleared the square by force.

The rights group Human Rights Watch said seven women were subjected to the tests.

The ban came a week after public outrage over scenes of soldiers dragging women protesters by the hair, stomping on them and stripping one half-naked in the street during a fierce crackdown on activists.

"This is a case for all the women of Egypt, not only mine," said Samira Ibrahim, 25, who was arrested and then spoke out about her treatment.

Ibrahim filed two suits against the practice, one demanding it be banned and another accusing an officer of sexual assault. She was the only one to complain publicly about a practice that can bring shame upon the victim in a conservative society.

A small group of women gathered outside the court building, holding banners.

The three-judge panel said in its ruling that the virginity tests were "a violation of women's rights and an aggression against their dignity".

The ruling also said a member of the ruling military council admitted to Amnesty International in June that the practice was carried out on female detainees in March to protect the army against possible allegations of rape, indicating it was an administrative order and not an individual decision.

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