Virginity tests: Ruling against bursary scheme ridicules Zulu culture - UThukela mayor

2016-06-23 17:49
King Goodwill Zwelithini's daughters Princess Mukeli and Princess Nqabayothando in a joint briefing with UThukela District Municipality where they called on the Zulu nation to defend its culture and customs. (Amanda Khosa, News24)

King Goodwill Zwelithini's daughters Princess Mukeli and Princess Nqabayothando in a joint briefing with UThukela District Municipality where they called on the Zulu nation to defend its culture and customs. (Amanda Khosa, News24)

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Durban – UThukela District Mayor Dudu Mazibuko says the Commission for Gender Equality's ruling that young women not be awarded bursaries based on their virginity, ridicules Zulu culture.

Mazibuko, who was accompanied by King Goodwill Zwelithini’s two daughters - Princess Nqobangothando and Princess Mukelile - was responding to the commission’s report on the controversial virgin bursaries.

The municipality received widespread criticism when it awarded 16 young women 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 handed out 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.

"I just want to make it clear that as a district municipality, what we are doing is the mandate from the people of the district. We did not just wake up one day and decide to issue bursaries.

"We consulted the communities of UThukela and then took a decision that we will implement the bursaries."

Mazibuko said after the municipality was criticised, it went back to the communities and the communities still felt strongly about the bursaries.

She said council would review the commission’s decision and decide on a way forward.

'Cultural right to ukuhlolwa'

Amakhosi [traditional leaders] are also expected to meet next Thursday to discuss the matter.

"We have challenged the report and we have invited the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities to look into the report because we are not happy with the way the report was written.

"They are not coming up with suggestions; instead they are ridiculing what is being done."

She said it was premature to say whether the municipality would be challenging the commission’s outcomes in court.

"The CGE is being disingenuous in claiming that this investigation is not about cultural right to ukuhlolwa [virginity testing]."

She said cultural practices were by nature exclusive.

"The Constitution itself refers to the right of cultural, religious and linguistic communities. This generic finding will mean that there should be no policy in government that is aimed at ensuring that initiation schools are safe through development support and opportunities as that policy will exclude people who do not attend these initiation schools.”

On the matter of women losing their virginity after being raped, she said the commission had not done its homework because young women who were raped were culturally cleansed and were still viewed as virgins.

'Facing challenges of teenage pregnancies'

On the allegation that it was gender discrimination to award the bursaries to females only, she said it was preposterous to suggest that males could get tested for their virginity.

"This is tantamount to saying that females must also attend initiation schools for circumcision."

Mazibuko said the commission ignored the views of two maiden bursary holders that it had interviewed for its investigation.

"The report fails to prove that the cultural practice of ukuhlolwa violates any of the provisions of the Bill of Rights. The report also failed to quote any part of the Constitution that prevents the UThukela District Municipality from supporting, through state resources, the cultural association of the maidens."

She said when the municipality received the draft report, it was clear that there was friction between the cultural rights of the association of maidens and the responsibility of the municipality to promote these rights.

"As a district municipality, we are facing challenges of teenage pregnancies. Between January and March, about 383 school girls had fallen pregnant. Almost 20 000 pupils have dropped out of school in the past three years. We have tried everything to curb pregnancies. Workshops are not working. People must come up with suggestions."  

Read more on:    durban  |  culture

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