The KwaZulu-Natal municipality in South Africa introduced a new scholarship for teenage girls who remained virgins during their time in school, SA People reports.
The idea behind the “Maidens Bursary Award” came from UThukela District Mayor Dudu Mazibuko. The South African mayor said the scholarships were given to a group of 16 young women.
In 2013, it was reported that 182,000 South African high school girls faced pregnancy. Many of them are Black, live below the poverty line, and are as young as 14 when they have their first child.
Mazibuko said the scholarship was created to reduce the rate of pregnancies and keep the teens away from older men.
In order for the teens to prove their virginity, they must be tested regularly. The scholarship, given out on January 11, was met with harsh criticism from women’s advocate group People Opposing Women Abuse.
SA People reports:
“POWA advocates for bringing an end to the culture of virginity testing as it infringes on the Constitutional Right to Privacy,” said Palesa Mpapa, legal manager for POWA, in a statement. “It also is a discriminatory practice against girls as boys are never publicly tested for virginity, yet they are parties to the cause for loss of virginity. This practice stigmatises girls who could have lost virginity through rape or incest.
“Worse this is a patriarchal mechanism of controlling women’s sexuality for marriage and it does not link to educational success.”
Mfanozelwe Shozi, the country’s chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality, agreed the scholarships are going too far.