The Maidens Bursary Award, which requires women to undergo regular virginity testing, should be scrapped, a non-profit organisation said on Thursday.
“If the award is meant to empower women, it should be given away to women in a manner that recognises and protects their dignity,” she said.
Sixteen young women were awarded the bursary during the UThungulu District Municipality’s Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards on January 11.
It was given to women on condition that they underwent virginity testing every holiday. If the municipality found the woman had lost her virginity, the bursary was taken away.
The South African Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday that it was investigating several complaints about the bursary.
Moeti said virginity testing had been found to be flawed and the methods used were not scientific.
“The practice is also invasive, traumatising, and sexist.”
Being a virgin should have no bearing on whether women were granted bursaries, she said.
“Apart from that, given the high levels of sexual violence in the country, the whole process could lead to further stigma and trauma for women who are rape survivors and recipients who potentially could be,” she said.
Women’s access to education should not be determined by a traumatic and invasive process that stripped them of control of their bodies.
The organisation wanted the award scrapped before 2017.