Females Protest Virginity Test Conditioned Student Scholarship in South Africa
Maiden’s Bursary Award, a bizarre scholarship program targeted at female virgin students has been introduced in South Africa where beneficiaries are expected to undergo virginity testing every vacation.
The scholarship, which has attracted condemnation from women and other rights groups, was introduced this year in the Uthukela district of South Africa and has provided 16 women with college funding for retaining their virginity.
The young women who applied for the scholarships voluntarily stayed virgins and agreed to have regular virginity tests to keep their funding, said Uthukela Mayor Dudu Mazibuko.
The mayor stated that the scheme was intended to “reduce HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy” among young girls in the Uthukela district of eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
“To us, it’s just to say thank you for keeping yourself and you can still keep yourself for the next three years until you get your degree or certificate,” Mazibuko said.
Certain rights groups have described the scholarship arrangement as invasive and sexist. Javu Baloyi of the Commission on Gender and Equality said “The scholarship promotes stereotypes – that you only get a bursary because you are a virgin, not based on your capabilities”.
People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) said they were shocked because the move was unconstitutional. The use of tax payers money to violate the rights of girls, added insult to injury, they claimed. By giving scholarships to girls who are virgins, South Africa is trying to control women’s bodies while ignoring the role of men and sexual violence in spreading HIV/AIDS, another rights campaigner said.
However, the Mayor behind the scholarships is standing her ground.
“What I have noticed about all the critics is that they are not bringing solutions,” says uThukela Mayor Dudu Mazibuko, who says she got pregnant in high school as a teenager and doesn’t want girls to go through the same struggle.
Mazibuko says they have tried different ways to stop teenage pregnancies in the schools of her district, but nothing has worked.
Asked whether she would be comfortable submitting her own daughters to the practice, Ms Mazibuko said that she would be, and that her own granddaughter was hoping to take part in this year’s ceremony.