A South African region has launched a grant scheme for girls who remain virgins throughout their university studies, triggering outrage among human rights groups.
The bursary offered in Uthukela, in the south-east of the country near Durban, is the brainchild of the municipality’s female mayor, Dudu Mazibujo.
News of the scheme sparked outrage from civil society groups, with one women’s association branding it unconstitutional.
“The bursaries are for young girls who are still virgins,” said a municipality spokesman, Jabulani Mkhonza.
“It’s a new category which the mayor has introduced this year,” he said, adding that the goal was to encourage “young girls to keep themselves pure and inactive from sexual activity and focus on their studies”. Beneficiaries of the grant would be subjected to regular virginity tests, he added.
“Those children who have been awarded bursaries will be checked whenever they come back for holidays. The bursary will be taken away if they lose their virginity,” said Mkhonza.
The People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) group said it was shocked that taxpayers’ money was being used to violate girls’ rights.
“Powa is shocked to hear that young girls are being tested for virginity in order to get bursaries ... it’s a violation of their rights,” the group’s executive director, Nonhlanhla Mokwena, said.
Many South Africans from poor backgrounds rely on government grants to get through university. Planned increases in university fees last year provoked occasionally violent protests nationwide.