KwaZulu-Natal – Remain virgins or we will take away your bursaries. This was the condition given to 16 young women who received the Maidens Bursary Award from the UThukela District Municipality for remaining pure.
In addition, they had to undergo virginity testing every holiday to ensure they were not sexually active.
The municipality introduced the new category of bursaries during its Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards on January 11.
Municipality spokesperson Jabulani Mkhonza said more than 100 matrics, including those who were not virgins, who excelled in their 2015 matric year, received awards.
Mkhonza said the bursary was UThukela District Mayor Dudu Mazibuko’s idea.
“Sixteen of these bursaries went to the girls for still being virgins. However, in order to keep their bursaries, these maidens will have to undergo a check-up every holiday. If they lose their virginity, then the bursary gets taken away,” Mkhonza said.
He said the bursaries were intended to encourage young girls to stay pure and focus on their education.
“We have been thinking about introducing a system like this for girls in Grade 10 to 12,” said Busisiwe Lunga, who was based in Johannesburg.
“We want them to be checked and make sure that they have something to look forward to when they get to matric.”
Lunga said her 21 year-old daughter, who was in university, was still a virgin and got tested regularly.
It was important for young women to remain pure so they would not contract diseases like HIV/Aids.
“Most of the young women contract Aids, their children get the disease and on top of that, the men leave them and they forget that they still have a long road ahead of them,” she said.
Lunga said young women of today rushed into things.
Professional counsellor Yolande Bird disagreed, and said the process might be traumatic for young women. Some of them could see it as an invasion of their privacy.
“The continuous testing can cause undue stress on these young girls,” she said.
Bird said it could be unfair on the young girls to be forced to undergo tests regularly.
“What if you are raped during your first year? It is not fair because someone would have forced themselves on you. What happens then?” she asked.
SAHRC Probes the Idea
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) launches a probe into the establishment of the “Maiden Bursary Award” by the ANC Mayor Dudu Mazibuko. The DA says it will write to the Commissioner of the SAHRC, Lawrence Mushwana, to act in accordance with section 181(5) of the Constitution at table this report in Parliament upon its completion.
We also reiterate our call for the ANC to suspend Mayor Mazibuko and the programme pending the outcome of such a probe to ensure that no more women are violated.
The SAHRC announced late on Wednesday that it would be investigating the controversial “Maidens Bursary Award” in conjunction with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), established this year by the UThukela District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The investigation comes after the Human Rights Commission received several complaints asserting that the bursary is at odds with the Constitution and the right to privacy enshrined therein.
It is completely inexplicable that both the Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, and the ANC Women’s League President, Bathabile Dlamini, have remained silent on this issue even though these allegations go to the core of the privacy and dignity of young women which is at the apex of both their mandates. Their inaction in this regard is especially worrying, as this sets a precedent for the violation of women’s rights in South Africa.
This comes after reports earlier this week alleging that the “Maidens Bursary Award” prescribes that young women applying to be recipients must not only be virgins in order to qualify for the bursary, but must remain virgins in order to remain in the programme. To this end, the young women have to undergo virginity testing at each holiday break. The Democratic Alliance (DA) contends that this invasive practice strips young women of their dignity, freedom of privacy and choice, and instills in them a fear of being ostracised and embarrassed for their personal choices, or unfortunate circumstances such as rape.
While it is encouraging that the SAHRC has heeded the calls to investigate this matter, it is disappointing that the ANC as a party in government appears not to be taking this issue as seriously as it ought to.
We look forward to the completion of this investigation and hope that this would be the first step in seeking justice for these young women who have been violated by a misguided Mayor imposing her moral ideas onto young women who should not be precluded from receiving opportunities because of their personal choices.