Durban – The uThukela District Municipality has climbed down from its decision to offer bursaries to young women on condition that they are virgins, saying it is reviewing the policy.
Mayor Dudu Mazibuko said they were consulting communities on the issue.
Asked whether the bursary scheme would continue in the light of the criticism, she said: “We are in consultation with communities and from those consultations, we will decide on the way forward.”
The scheme, which has been heavily criticised in the past few weeks, was to provide bursaries for 16 young women who were virgins.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini added her voice to the criticism this week, saying: “We cannot in good conscience now want to provide space for virginity testing specifically targeting girls and linked to educational opportunities.
Read: The folly of forced virginity testing
“I have used the term forced virginity testing … Is it consent or coercion when women and girls can only access bursaries based on them doing virginity tests and passing those tests?” she asked.
Mazibuko declined to comment on the minister’s views, saying the remarks were not directed at them but referred to forced virginity testing.
“I cannot comment on what the minster said. I heard about the statement, and I have not read it,” she said.
“From what I have heard, she was talking about forced virginity testing. We do not even do that (virginity testing); it’s done by women in the community.
“We gave the bursaries for 2016 a while ago. We are now in consultation with the community and from those consultations will come a way forward.
Read: Bursaries for virgins sparks debate
Mazibuko was unhappy with the media’s reporting on the issue.
“We gave many other people bursaries; this was a special category,” she said.
Should the consultation lead to the bursary scheme’s being cancelled, the municipality would face opposition from cultural organisations that believed more bursaries should be made available for virgins.
Nomagugu Ngobese, of the Nomkhubulwane youth and culture development organisation, told The Mercury that more, similar, schemes were needed.
Read: Butt out over virginity tests, minister told
”We need more bursaries like this. Young women who have children are getting social grants. These bursaries are important for those young women who have remained virgins, to benefit them,” she said.