JOHANNESBURG – UThukela Municipality Mayor Dudu Mazibuko says the practice of virginity testing has existed in the Zulu culture for decades, and therefore its Maidens Bursary programme is acceptable.
Mazibuko has defended the controversial bursary which provides funding for young women on the condition that they undergo regular virginity testing.
It’s been reported that 16 young South African women are currently beneficiaries of the programme.
Mazibuko says the municipality has the buy in of both the young women in question and the community.
“It’s not something that we are recreating or doing as a municipality. In fact, I don’t know how it’s done. They’ve submitted a certificate to us as a municipality which shows they are [virgins].”
‘TESTING IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL’
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) has slammed bursary programme.
Powa’s Palesa Mpapa said, “The fact that we align it to the right to education is not making sense. It’s also discriminating… the girls being lured into bursaries on the basis of virginity and what are we saying about boys?”
She said that the practice of virginity testing was unconstitutional.
“If anyone wants to keep their virginity, it’s their right to do it in their individual capacity. It’s a personal issue, which is not supposed to be done in public and it’s also not good that anyone’s using it in order to get a bursary.”
Mazibuko says the programme is meant to encourage young girls to abstain from sex and focus of education.
“There was a study by the health department which [found that] young girls are more vulnerable than boys. There is no pressure at all, in fact this is an incentive because we are talking girls that have taken the decision to keep their virginity.”
Professor Ann Skelton from the Centre for Child Law says the programme is discriminatory.
“Obviously, discrimination is like for example saying we would give this bursary to women is a form of discrimination but it’s a positive discrimination. However, when you start cutting other people out of the mix because of this kind of requirement then you are in the territory of unfair discrimination.”
(Edited by Shimoney Regter)