Earlier this year, the mayor of Uthukela municipality in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, Dudu Mazibuko introduced a plan to give virgins scholarships after the virginity of the girls were confirmed by appropriate tests.
The plan had caused an uproar at its unveiling with human rights groups seriously campaigning against it. Those who were against the plan had voiced their displeasure on the grounds of its supposed indignity.
Their voices have been heard as an official body in South Africa has ruled that the plan to offer virgins scholarships are unlawful and should be discarded.
To be fair to the agitators for the plan, the reason for the move to give virgins scholarships is within reach. One only need consider pertinent data on teenage pregnancy in South Africa such as;
- Teenage mothers accounting for 36% of maternal deaths every year
- 180 out of 1,000 pupils becoming pregnant or making someone pregnant
- 68,000 teenage pregnancies recorded in the country in 2011
- 81,000 teenage pregnancies recorded in the country in 2012
- 100,000 teenage pregnancies recorded in the country in 2013
Also, an estimated 6.3 million people in South Africa are HIV-positive, which makes up more than one in 10 people living with the virus. The scholarship for virgins had therefore been introduced to combat AIDs and child pregnancies.
The tests to verify the virginity of the female students was to be a part of an annual ceremony hosted by the Zulu king and if the student passed, she would then qualify for the bursaries.
The Commission for Gender Equality however ruled that a bursary “contingent on a female student’s virginity is fundamentally discriminatory”.
Their ruling was made after rights groups who had been part of the uproar against the plan, referred the scheme to them. The Commission has therefore deemed the scheme unconstitutional, stating;
“It goes against the ethos of the constitutional provisions in relation to dignity, equality and discrimination.”
They also share the sentiment that, “Virginity is not intrinsic to the task of studying,”.
The Uthukela municipality in KwaZulu-Natal who put forward the plan are yet to comment on the ruling but according to the AFP news agency, they have been given 60 days to respond to the recommendation that the scheme be closed.