Virginity testing needs to be changed, not banned

2009-09-12 00:00

TODAY, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu is being honoured by thousands of young Zulu maidens at the uMkhosi Womhlanga (reed dance) which is being held at his palace eNyokeni in Nongoma, Zululand.

Integral to this ceremony is virginity testing but the recent Children’s Act effectively kills the very foundation of the reed dance.

As a result, it has raised questions about what should reign supreme, culture and parenthood, or the rights of children?

By law, corporal punishment is not allowed, which means that you cannot give your child a klap on the backside because he or she may call Childline and have you arrested for child abuse. Of course there is a vast difference between disciplining a child for the right reasons and assaulting a child to near death. The abuse of children cannot be condoned and must be severely punished.

The government has introduced a law that outlaws the tried and tested method of smacking your child on the backside but it does not give us an alternative way of dealing with children. I feel for teachers who have lost all the authority the teaching profession had.

Similarly, with the banning of virginity testing, which contributes to a young girl’s preservation, there has been no advice from the government on how young girls can ensure they remain virgins.

All systems have flaws and trying to eradicate all the flaws is a relentless pursuit. We live in dynamic times and all systems need to adapt to change, and this is what needs to be done with virginity testing, not eradicate it.

These laws are made and implemented but no alternatives are made available. So a parent is alone when he or she has to deal with these issues within the confines of the law, with no recourse and no assistance from the powers that be.

The reed dance is an institution within the Zulu culture. Perhaps the custodians of this institution should be the ones deciding what should happen.

People who are not affected by an issue should not be that involved in the decision-making process. The people must decide; isn’t that what participative democracy is? Those who are learned must guide us.

Children are exposed to so much sexual temptation at such a young age that by the time they get to 16, which is the legal age for virginity testing, they have lost their innocence many years before.

This then defeats the purpose of virginity testing. What would we be preserving in a 16- year-old young woman who is already sexually active? Trying to get her to stay celibate? This is preposterous. We need to let the Zulus decide what is good for them, whether they want to pay lobolo, have uMkhosi Womhlanga their way and how their kingdom is governed. Afterall, uHlanga Lomhlabathi is their king and they are his subjects.

Elements of Zulu culture are slowly being eroded and, sooner or later, there will be no Zulu culture to speak of and the moral fabric of Zulu society will be a thing of the past.

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