JOHANNESBURG – UThukela Municipal Mayor Dudu Mazibuko says young women who apply for the controversial Maidens Bursary do so of their own volition and have no problem with its terms and conditions.
Young women qualify for the bursary on the condition that they regularly undergo virginity testing.
The Maidens Bursary was created by the KwaZulu-Natal municipality to fund higher education for young women.
Human rights activists and women’s groups have voiced their outrage over the programme, saying it’s discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The municipality says this is just one of four bursaries that is offered to young women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Mazibuko says the aim is not to discriminate against those who are not virgins.
“The girls don’t see it as a problem but those who say we are discriminating… we are not discriminating because there are other three categories that they can apply and we don’t ask the sexual status in those.”
However, gender activist Nomboniso Gasa says virginity testing is a function of patriarchy that has no place in a democracy.
“The municipality has no business coming up with a category that makes provision for virginity. Women’s sexuality belongs to them and their bodies are protected by the Constitution.”
Lawyers for Human Rights have also slammed the so-called virgin bursaries, saying the programme places the responsibility of sexual health squarely on young women.
Lawyers for Human Rights’ Sanja Bornman said, “This may not be the intention, but the politics plays the responsibility for sexual health of both boys and girls only on the shoulder of girls in a country where a high level of sexual violence against girls means sex isn’t always a choice.”
KZN MAYOR INSISTS ‘VIRGINITY BURSARY’ IS AN INCENTIVE PROGRAMME
People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) also criticised the bursary.
Powa’s Palesa Mpapa said, “The fact that we align it to the right to education is not making sense. It’s also discriminating in that girls are being lured into bursaries on the basis of virginity, but what are we saying about boys?’
Mpapa added that the practice of virginity testing is unconstitutional.
(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)