JOHANNESBURG (Web Desk) – Over a dozen young women in South Africa have been awarded college scholarships for staying virgins, in an initiative to encourage others to be “pure and focus on school”.
The scholarship was introduced this year and has been awarded to 16 girls from the Uthukela district in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, according to a spokesman for the district mayor.
Each year the mayor’s office awards scholarships to more than 100 promising high school and university students from the area.
The young women who applied for the scholarships 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 added.
However, the idea has been criticised by Gender Equality activists, saying virginity testing is not against South Africa’s constitution but it is essential to be done with consent.
“I think the intentions of the mayor are great but what we don’t agree with is giving bursaries for virginity,” said chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality Mfanozelwe Shozi.
“There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity and even against boys. This is going too far.”
Some activists have also called for the banning of virginity testing in South Africa, describing it as sexist and invasive. Those defending the cultural practice say it preserves tradition and has been modernised to teach girls about their reproductive health and HIV and AIDS.