31 May 2011

The Egyptian military and the Bible agree: Sometimes virginity tests are necessary

Earlier this spring, the Egyptian military arrested women demonstrators in Tahrir Square and subjected them to "virginity tests." According to an Egyptian general, these tests were done for two reasons: 1) to prove that the Egyptian authorities didn't rape the women, and 2) to prove that the women were prostitutes.

And the test worked like a charm. All of the women failed the test, proving that they were prostitutes (since they were non-virgins) and that the authorities did not rape them (since you can't rape a woman who is not a virgin).

Since Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, I thought I'd check to see if the Quran mentions virginity testing. It doesn't, so far as I can tell.

But the Bible does.

Here, for example, is how Moses told his military leaders to apply virginity tests on Midianite women. (God's 26th Killing)

Have ye saved all the women alive? ... Now therefore ... kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Numbers 31:14-18

I suspect that the test procedure was similar to the Egyptian military's, but the outcome was different. The Egyptians tortured, terrorized, and humiliated women prisoners; the Israelites killed those who failed the test and enslaved (and raped) those that passed.

The same test was used in Judges 21, where the non-Benjamite Israelites were looking for wives for the Benjamites after their unsuccessful God-inspired genocide attempt. (It's a long story, see here for the details.)

Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children ... utterly destroy every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh. Judges 21:10-12

And, of course, virginity testing is required whenever a woman gets married. If she passes (by providing "the tokens of her virginity"), she becomes the possession of her husband; if she fails, the men of her city stone her to death.

If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her, And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him; And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days. But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. Deuteronomy 22:13-21

"Virginity tests" are a degrading form of torture that should be condemned by everyone, regardless of nationality or religious belief.

But how can a Bible believer condemn such tests when they are approved and promoted by the Bible?


RsD said...

But how can a Bible believer condemn such tests when they are approved and promoted by the Bible?

Hypocritically. Just they same way that a Bible believer uses that vile book for any "moral" purposes.

Darren Delgado said...

I think we both know what the answer would be. "Islam didn't have Jesus to come to Earth and tell everyone that the original laws were wrong, and that's why they still do these things."

Of course that leaves us with the mystery of why a merciful God would come up with those rules in the first place. And also the little problem of how sometimes Jesus says we SHOULD follow the Old Law, and other times he says we shouldn't.

But it's best not to think too much about these things.

Steve Wells said...

I think you're right, Darren. Islam badly needs a New Testament and a new prophet. One that would say something like, "You have heard it said that a man should beat his wife if she disobeys him, but I say to you that a husband has no authority over his wife. Marriage is an equal partnership that is based on love alone."

Christians (and somehow Jews, for that matter) can and do ignore the Old Testament. Muslims are simply stuck with the Quran.

Still, if the Jews can (and do) ignore the Torah, couldn't Muslims ignore the Quran as well?

twillight said...


No wonder jews do not follow the OT. They also have a newer holy book, called the Talmud.
Only a minor denomination of jews (called caraites) take only the Written Torah as their holy book, and they are dismissed - if not persecuted - by judaistic jews.

Steve Wells said...

It's true the Jews have the Talmud, but the Muslims have the hadith.

I guess the main difference is that the Talmud softens and moderates the extreme teaching of the Torah, while the hadith hardens and radicalizes the nasty bits in the Quran.

twillight said...

I don't know anything about some 'hadith' Steve, but "the Talmud softening the Torah" is simply not true.
The Talmud is more ridiculous, racist etc. then the OC - at least from what I've read from it while translating what I had time.

twillight said...


Well, I'm no jew, but from what I've read it's probably corellated with the respect (in the meaning like in middle-age Japan) of their group, and the fear of / holy war with nonjews.

Also not a minor part of the Torah (wether the Written or the Oral Law) depends on the existence of The Temple, what currently is not.

PS: the nonvirgin part is probably solved by a) they take virgin wives b) the law only allows the possiblity of case, so if the husband don't care of it it isn't a problem?

nazani said...

They "tested" the women for virginity in the same way reporter Lara Logan was assaulted: they rammed their fingers up them. This is the same form of abuse that Arab women have complained about for years.

Pocketguy said...

In the case where the husband claims his wife wasn't a virgin, her father is supposed to somehow have the tokens of virginity and display them to defend the woman. How is the father supposed to get those tokens of virginity? This process doesn't make sense.