WORLD VOICE: Egyptian Lawmaker Proposes Virginity Tests Before College Admission

WORLD VOICE: Egyptian Lawmaker Proposes Virginity Tests Before College Admission

Photo Credit: Sky2105 Sara Yap

Photo Credit: Sky2105 Sara Yap

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.

To read the original article, click below:

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tes Silverman.


Tes Silverman

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. 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 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.

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WORLD VOICE: The Story of a Girl Who Dared To Dream for #DayofTheGirl

WORLD VOICE: The Story of a Girl Who Dared To Dream for #DayofTheGirl

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!

WMB 2015 Day of the Girl

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

SOCIAL GOOD: Human Rights News You May Have Missed

SOCIAL GOOD: Human Rights News You May Have Missed

World Moms care about human rights, whether at home or around the world.   Here is a roundup of some of the recent human rights news items that we think deserve some more attention.


There has been some good news recently about efforts to raise the age of marriage and eliminate child marriage.

Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three child brides told in Camfed's film The Child Within.

Nabina, age 15. Her story is one of three Malawian child brides told in Camfed’s film       The Child Within.

MALAWI’s National Assembly has unanimously passed a bill that raises the minimum age for consent to marriage from 16 (or 15 with parental consent) to 18 years of age.  While this will end legal child marriage in the country with one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, more work will need to be done to sure that the law is implemented.

And INDONESIA’s government is preparing a bill to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years of age.  While the legal age of marriage for females is currently 16, marriage at a younger age is legal with parental consent and judicial approval. According to data from the Health Ministry in 2010, 41.9 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were married.  (P.S. The minimum age for boys to marry is 19.)


A gathering to promote the rights of girls and education for all in Barrod village of Rajasthan’s Alwar district. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok

A gathering to promote the rights of girls and education for all in Barrod village of Rajasthan’s Alwar district. Photo: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok

A new UNITED Nations human rights report analyzing the problem of attacks against girls trying to access education found that schools in at least 70 different countries were attacked in between 2009 and 2014, with many attacks specifically targeting girls, parents and teachers advocating for gender equality in education.

 “The educational rights of girls and women are often targeted due to the fact that they represent a challenge to existing gender and age-based systems of oppression.”

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.   


In January, A women-only minibus service was  launched in NEPAL’s capital Kathmandu to reduce sexual harassment on crowded routes. According to a 2013 World Bank survey, approximately a quarter of young women in Nepal report having been subjected to sexual harassment on public transport.

Turkish men aren’t known for wearing skirts. But in February, they began turning out in large numbers in Istanbul to protest about violence against women in TURKEY.

Men in mini skirts campaign
Men in mini skirts campaign

They’re joining others outraged by the murder of 20-year-old Ozgecan Aslan who was abducted on 11 February and killed for apparently trying to prevent a bus driver from raping her.


IN TANZANIA, some 800 school girls returned home on January 12 after escaping female genital mutilation (FGM) by spending three months hiding in safe houses.  FGM is traditionally carried out on girls between October and December. Run by charities and church organisations, the shelters offer protection (including police protection at some) to ensure the girls remain safe.

FGM was outlawed in Tanzania in 1998 and carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison, but is still regularly carried out, especially in northern and central regions of Tanzania.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.  It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The UN estimates that more than 40 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM.  If current trends continue, more than 15 million girls will be cut by 2020; more than 86 million additional girls worldwide will be subjected to the practice by 2030. The UN states that, although this harmful traditional practice has persisted for over a thousand years, programmatic evidence suggests that FGM can end in one generation.


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

(c)TARA TODRASS-WHITEHILL / REUTERS / LANDOV image retrieved from Aljazeera America

For the first time ever, a court in EGYPT has sentenced a doctor to prison for the female genital mutilation (FGM) of a 13-year-old girl that resulted in her death.  Soheir al-Batea died in June 2013 after undergoing an FGM procedure carried out by Dr. Raslan Fadl.  A court in Mansour handed down not guilty verdicts for the doctor as well as the girl’s father for ordering the procedure in November 2014.  But Egypt’s Justice Ministry reportedly contacted the court to say it was “displeased with the judgment”, resulting in a retrial.  Fadl was sentenced at retrial to the maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment; the father was sentence to three months’ house arrest. A ban on FGM has been in place since 2007 in Egypt,  yet this is the first time the law has been implemented. 

While FGM is most prevalent in Africa and the Middle East, it is also practiced in Asia, Latin America, Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.  This week, a new report from the Population Reference Bureau came out discussing the potential risk of girls and women in the UNITED STATES for undergoing FGM.  In 2013, there were up to 507,000 U.S. women and girls who had undergone FGM or were at risk of the procedure, according to PRB’s preliminary data analysis. This figure is more than twice the number of women and girls estimated to be at risk in 2000 (228,000).


And in the UNITED KINGDOM, the trial of a British doctor accused of performing female genital mutilation recently began in the United Kingdom’s first prosecution of an outlawed practice.  Dr. Dhanuson Dharmasena allegedly performed FGM in November 2012 on a 24-year-old woman soon after she gave birth to her first child at North London’s Whittington Hospital. The woman in the U.K. case, referred to as “AB” in court, reportedly underwent FGM as a 6-year-old in Somalia, when a section of her labia was sewn together, leaving only a small hole for menstrual blood and urine but too small for safely giving birth.  Defibulation, or re-opening the vagina, is commonly needed for FGM survivors about to give birth, and was required in AB’s case during delivery. But AB allegedly underwent re-infibulation, or sewing the labia together again after giving birth. The stitching or re-stitching together of the labia is an offense under section 1 of the United Kingdom’s Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.


I’ll end with several beautiful, inspirational videos.  The first is an advertisement from SOUTH AFRICA for the telecom company MTN. It is a reminder that no dreams are too big for a child.

The second is from a campaign that came out last June, but which recently received national and international attention.

Some brilliant teenagers in the UNITED STATES inspire with their spoken word poem Somewhere In America. 

 This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Human Rights Warrior Jennifer Prestholdt.

Did we miss any other recent Human Rights stories you know of? If so, lease let us know!

Jennifer Prestholdt (USA)

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.

You can find her on her blog The Human Rights Warrior or on Twitter @Jprestholdt.

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