Added: October 25, 2008 – Last updated: April 8, 2017


Author: Mario M. Ruiz

Title: Virginity Violated

Subtitle: Sexual Assault and Respectability in Mid- to Late-Nineteenth-Century Egypt

Journal: Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Volume: 25

Issue: 1

Year: 2005

Pages: 214-226

ISSN: 1089-201X – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1548-226X – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 19th Century | African History: Egyptian History



Duke University Press (Restricted Access)

Project MUSE (Restricted Access)


Author: Mario M. Ruiz, Department of History, Hofstra University

Abstract: »Nineteenth century legal records from the Cairo and Alexandrian police departments, as well as those of the various judicial councils active throughout Egypt from 1849 to 1884, contain hundreds of similar episodes that touch on matters of an explicitly sexual nature. In a sense, the sheer number of these cases, the rather dry, bureaucratic tone in which they were written, and the multiple references made to female sexuality raise several tantalizing questions. Why, for example, were these cases recorded in the first place? What assumptions did the nineteenth century Egyptian state make about a woman’s virginity? Finally, how were narratives dealing with sexual honor and respectability constituted by the state and molded into persuasive displays of legal knowledge? This article attempts to provide some insight into these questions by exploring reported sexual assaults that occurred predominantly against Egyptian women. I focus on conflicting notions of female virginity and illegal offenses that violated a woman’s sexual honor. As mid-to-late-nineteenth-century legal records make clear, the concern for state officials was not so much with sexual morality per se but with transgressions from appropriate and permissible legal behavior. Changing social and economic realities led male administrators and bureaucratic intermediaries to invoke the discretionary power of the state in order to regulate the intimate behavior of its subjects. As in other societies, sexual honor stood for a set of gender norms that provided the logic for unequal power relations in both private and public life. (excerpt)« (Source: Popline)


  Historical Background (p. 216)
  Deciphering the Egyptian State: Judges, Juriconsults, and Physicians (p. 218)
  Narrative, Law, and Language (p. 219)
  Defloration and "the Abominable Act" (p. 221)
  Conclusion (p. 225)

Note: Ruiz, Mario M. Intimate Disputes, Illicit Violence: Gender, Law, and the State in Colonial Egypt, 1849-1923. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Michigan, 2004: Chapter 2. – Bibliographic Entry: Info

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