A South African mayor defended his decision to award scholarship based on virginity as a way to reduce AIDs and unwanted pregnancies.
Mayor Dudu Mazibuko hopes the offer helps “reduce HIV, Aids and unwanted pregnancy” un Uthukela, located in eastern KwaXulu-Natal province.
“The bursaries are for young girls who are still virgins,” explained municipality spokesman Jabulani Mkhonza. “Those children who have been awarded bursaries will be checked whenever they come back for holidays. The bursary will be taken away if they lose their virginity.”
A census shows 53 million people live in South Africa. The country also “has the biggest and most high profile HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 6.3 million people living with HIV in 2013.” Over 19% of the general population has HIV, but within those stats, the “prevalence is almost 40% Kawzulu Natal compared with 18% in Northern Cape and Western Cape.”
Human rights groups railed against the decision, claiming the test is “a violation of the rights and dignity of the girl child.”
“Virginity testing will never stop the spread of HIV and Aids,” said People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) spokesperson Idumeleng Muloko said.
South Africa banned the virginity test ten years ago, but the Zulus defied the ban because “being certified a virgin gives a girl status.”
“The people who are saying this is a violation of our rights, they should come and talk to us instead of talking on our behalf,” said Nokuthula Shazi in 1995, then-17. “They have never asked us about our beliefs.”
The majority of Zulu girls visit traditional healers like Nomagugu Ngobese, who claims she had a dream in 1994 to save all girls from HIV. From McClatchyDC:
One weekend each month, several dozen girls come to Ngobese for testing, some as young as 6, most with their mothers. They share stories, discuss Zulu culture and talk about the dangers of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
Later, behind the cover of towels, Ngobese inspects each girl to determine whether she’s a virgin. The test costs two rand—about 30 cents—and is usually over in a minute.
Donning rubber gloves, Ngobese looks for signs of sexual assault, such as bruises and cuts, and sores that would indicate sexually transmitted disease. She refers these cases to doctors.
If the girl passes, she can perform a special reed dance for King Goodwill Zwelithini.
“I think the intentions of the mayor are great but what we don’t agree with is giving bursaries for virginity,” stated 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.”
Indonesia faced international backlash in May 2015 when media revealed the government requires female military recruits to undergo virginity tests.
“We need to examine the mentality of these applicants,” insisted Indonesian military spokesman Fuad Basya. “If they are no longer virgins, if they are naughty, it means their mentality is not good. We will continue to carry out the test because to be a military person, the most important thing is your mentality. Physical and intellectual requirements are secondary.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the female recruits, along with fiancées of military officers, must submit to a “two-finger” test to make sure the hymen is still intact. Those who failed did not face punishment, “but all of the women described the test as painful, embarrassing, and traumatic.”
In Afghanistan, women are expected to be virgins on their wedding night. If they cannot prove their intact hymen, brides face lashings or even death.
A woman in Afghanistan recently told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Free Afghanistan that “in some areas of the country” the woman’s in-laws check her sheets for bloodstains after the wedding night. If the sheets lack blood, the in-laws can “demand that their ‘damaged’ daughter-in-law be exchanged for her sister.” The country imprisons non-virgins “for adultery.”
“In some cases, a bride’s ears and nose are cut off,” she explained. “They are forced into dirty clothes and taken back to her parent’s home. Their heads are shaved. The bride’s family is told that she is not a virgin. Other times, a bride is simply killed and her body is returned to her parents.”