DA to approach SAHRC over 'virginity bursaries'

2016-01-25 15:03

Durban – The Democratic Alliance will ask the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate a KwaZulu-Natal mayor for introducing the "Maiden Bursary Award".

In a statement released on Monday, the party's spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and People Living with Disabilities, Nomsa Marchesi, said the SAHRC should investigate UThukela District Mayor Dudu Mazibuko for coming up with the idea that young women, who were still virgins, be given bursaries from the municipality on condition that they remain "pure".  

Sixteen young women were awarded the Maiden Bursary Award for remaining virgins. The bursaries came with the condition that the young women had to undergo virginity testing every holiday and if it was found that they were no longer virgins, the bursary would be taken away.

The bursaries were given to the girls on January 11 during the Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards, where 100 matrics, including those who were not virgins, received awards for excelling in their matric exams.

Marchesi said women needed to be virgins to qualify for the bursary and remain virgins to keep the bursary.

"To this end, the young women have to undergo virginity testing at each holiday break. This is an abuse of state power and needs to be investigated to determine whether it is constitutionally sound."

Marchesi said the party viewed this as an "invasive practice that 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".

She said Mazibuko had failed to address how issues of rape, incest and sexual abuse would be catered for under this bursary scheme.

"While the DA respects that virginity testing may be part of certain cultural practices, it is inexplicable that a government department can subject young girls to such an invasive practice under duress because they are desperate to obtain bursaries and accessing opportunities.

"Governments’ responsibility is to educate communities about sexual health matters, not to intimidate them into complying with practices that compromise their right to dignity," said Marchesi.

Meanwhile, an advocacy organisation called Amandla.mobi has started a campaign called Stop virginity testing for bursaries and have nearly reached their target of 300 signatures. A total of 244 people have already signed the online petition.

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