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.
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.
This past Sunday, we celebrated International Day of The Girl on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by sharing photos of our contributors’ daughters and what they dream of being when they grow up. (See their pictures at the end of this post!) So for our World Voice column today, we found it fitting to share a story of an amazing girl who defied the odds and later became one of our World Moms Blog contributors…read on!
There was once a little girl who grew up in a slum. This little girl would go to school in the morning without breakfast and would come back from school not expecting lunch. By the age of 11 she had no friends because they had all been married off. This little girl grew up in an area where education was not seen as important. At 14 she was mocked for being old maid not married.
This little girl wanted one thing in life, TO BE EDUCATED!
She had seen that those with education rode cars and lived in big houses. This little girl used to read so much and wanted the life she read of in books. She wanted to travel the world. She wanted to do many things. She did not allow her present circumstances determine her life. In other words she dared to dream.
Her parents couldn’t understand her big dreams. She was told she wouldn’t succeed much in life because she was not hardworking. She wasn’t much good at cooking, washing, sweeping and she always questioned everything. Who would marry you? No man would marry you if you cannot do domestic chores. She was always told, and she would always reply there are machines to do all that. This little girl read and read, and read.
Today she is living her dream because she dared to dream. You, too, can dare to dream. Do not allow someone’s else’s opinion of you become your reality. Allow yourself the opportunity to be the best that you can be. Give yourself a chance to excel, and the question I ask is WHY NOT YOU?
That little girl is all grown up and writing this article. I AM THE LITTLE GIRL THAT DARED TO DREAM.
If I could dream those dreams so many years ago why can’t you? I never thought of being a girl as a burden, and I still don’t. And no matter what anyone said, I knew I was born to shine in this world, and it was my duty to fulfil that destiny.
As a young girl you have all that it takes to be the greatest, and I wished someone had told me that years ago. I would have wished for so much, and dared for so much.
The greatest disservice you can do to yourself is selling yourself short of your potentials. Never, ever do that. Go for what you desire, and anyone that says you can’t, take great pleasure in proving them wrong. You are strong, bold, and the best. Accept yourself for who you are and never give anyone the power to hurt you.
No one can hurt you without your permission, and no one can make you feel less without your permission.
Be a voice for the voiceless girl. Be a name for the nameless girl, and be the face of the faceless girl. At the end of the day we have to stand for each other and by each other. It’s #GirlPower, and we dare to dream.
This is an original post written by Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria for World Moms Blog.
Photo credit to Jennifer Burden.
Here are some of the daughters of our #WorldMoms who shared their dreams for #DayofTheGirl
Reggae band SOJA partnered with UNICEF’s Out-of-School Children initiative to produce the video “Shadow” to draw attention to the importance of education for all of the world’s children. Globally, an estimated 58 million children of primary school age and 63 million young adolescents are not enrolled in school. Like the girl in this video, many of them are girls. Yet data demonstrates that reaching the most marginalized children may initially cost more but also yields greater benefits. This video was filmed in Jigjiga, in the Somali region of Ethiopia, where 3 million children remain out of school. For more on global trends regarding out-of-school children, visit the UNICEF website.
This year, the UN has decided to place a special focus on the role of health care workers in FGM. Although the practice of FGM cannot be justified by medical reasons, in many countries it is executed more and more often by medical professionals. This constitutes one of the greatest threats to the abandonment of the practice.
(c)TARA TODRASS-WHITEHILL / REUTERS / LANDOV image retrieved from Aljazeera America
Jennifer Prestholdt is a lawyer and the Deputy Director of The Advocates for Human Rights, a volunteer-based human rights organization that works locally, nationally and internationally. Her work in human rights takes her around the world, but she spends most of her time in Minneapolis, MN, where she lives with her children (two sons and one daughter), her husband, an elderly cat and a dwarf hamster.
As Jennifer’s kids are now all in school (1st, 4th and 6th grades), she is finally finding more time to do the things that she used to love to do, especially running, writing and knitting. Jennifer loves to travel and has had the dubious distinction of having been accidentally locked in a bathroom on five continents so far. Australia and Antarctica await!
In January 2011, Jennifer made a New Year’s Resolution to start writing about her experiences in order to share with her children the lessons learned from 15 years of work in human rights. The result is her personal blog, The Human Rights Warrior. The name comes from her son Simon, who was extremely disappointed to learn that his mother is a lawyer, not a warrior.