SOUTH AFRICA - 2016 - VIRGINITY TEST REQUIRED FOR SCHOLARSHIPS
A South African mayor came under fire for his decision to award college scholarships to 16 female students for remaining virgins.
Mayor Dudu Mazibuko told BBC News that the scheme is meant to "reduce HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy."
The scholarship was introduced this year for women from the Uthukela district in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. The applicants voluntarily stayed virgins — and agreed to have regular virginity tests to keep their funding, Uthukela Mayor Dudu Mazibuko told South African talk radio station 702.
"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.
The grants will be renewed "as long as the child can produce a certificate that she is still a virgin," she said. The scholarships focus on young women because they are more vulnerable to exploitation, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, she said.
The scholarship recipients would have already been tested as part of an annual Zulu ceremony, where virgins are pre-selected to perform a reed dance for King Goodwill Zwelithini, BBC News reports.
People Opposing Women Abuse, or POWA, an NGO researching gender-based violence in Africa, has advocated for bringing an end to virginity testing, stating it infringes on constitutional rights to privacy.
"It also is a discriminatory practice against girls as boys are never publicly tested for virginity, yet they are parties to the cause for loss of virginity," the group wrote.
The group says the practice stigmatizes girls who are victims of rape or incest — and also does not correlate with educational success.
South Africa's department of basic education recorded about 20,000 pregnancies among girls and young women in schools in 2014, with 223 pregnant girls still in primary school, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation. A household survey conducted by Statistics South Africa found that 5.6% of South African females aged 14 to 19 were pregnant in 2013.
"I think the intentions of the mayor are great but what we don't agree with is giving bursaries for virginity," said Mfanozelwe Shozi, chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality. "There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity and even against boys. This is going too far."
Virginity testing is not against South Africa's constitution but it is essential that it is done with consent, said Shozi.