DA welcomes SAHRC probe into “virginity bursaries

The DA welcomes the investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) into the establishment of the “Maiden Bursary Award” …

The DA welcomes the investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) into the establishment of the “Maiden Bursary Award” by the ANC Mayor Dudu Mazibuko. In due course, we will write to the Commissioner of the SAHRC, Lawrence Mushwana, to act in accordance with section 181(5) of the Constitution at table this report in Parliament upon its completion.

We also reiterate our call for the ANC to suspend Mayor Mazibuko and the programme pending the outcome of such a probe to ensure that no more women are violated.

The SAHRC announced late on Wednesday that it would be investigating the controversial “Maidens Bursary Award” in conjunction with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), established this year by the UThukela District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The investigation comes after the Human Rights Commission received several complaints asserting that the bursary is at odds with the Constitution and the right to privacy enshrined therein.

It is completely inexplicable that both the Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, and the ANC Women’s League President, Bathabile Dlamini, have remained silent on this issue even though these allegations go to the core of the privacy and dignity of young women which is at the apex of both their mandates. Their inaction in this regard is especially worrying, as this sets a precedent for the violation of women’s rights in South Africa.

This comes after reports earlier this week alleging that the “Maidens Bursary Award” prescribes that young women applying to be recipients must not only be virgins in order to qualify for the bursary, but must remain virgins in order to remain in the programme. To this end, the young women have to undergo virginity testing at each holiday break. The Democratic Alliance (DA) contends that this invasive practice strips young women of their dignity, freedom of privacy and choice, and instills in them a fear of being ostracised and embarrassed for their personal choices, or unfortunate circumstances such as rape.

While it is encouraging that the SAHRC has heeded the calls to investigate this matter, it is disappointing that the ANC as a party in government appears not to be taking this issue as seriously as it ought to.

We look forward to the completion of this investigation and hope that this would be the first step in seeking justice for these young women who have been violated by a misguided Mayor imposing her moral ideas onto young women who should not be precluded from receiving opportunities because of their personal choices.