Wednesday, 27 January 2016

113 S/African girls promised scholarship to keep their virginity

What S/African virgins will get...
As part of a Maiden’s Bursary Awards programme, about 113 South African students have been promised scholarship if they can remain virgins.

This package was announced by the uThekela munucipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) on Friday, January 22, 2016 for sexually inactive students to pursue higher education in the country.

The programme which reportedly started in January 2015, has given out previous such awards to many other students, but it is unclear how many students have benefited from the programme since inception.

Jabulani Mkhonza, who is the spokesperson for the municipality, noted that the scholarships for virgins is a way of encouraging girls to keep themselves pure and inactive from sexual activity and focus on their studies.

Mkhonza told AFP news agency that, “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.”

According to Al Jazeera, this latest move has since been condemned by women’s rights activists with Sisonke Msimang, a policy development and advocacy consultant for the Sonke Gender Justice project in Johannesburg, stating that the municipality’s decision was “a terrible idea [that] had so many layers of ridiculousness.”

“Being sexually active and seeking an education have nothing to do with each other,” Msimang told Al Jazeera, adding that it is an embodiment of “level upon level of patriarchal nonsense, unconstitutional misogyny and mixed-up madness.

“We don’t support anything that undermines the rights of women, be it cultural or not. If these details are true, we will definitely find it objectionable, and engage with the municipality to resolve it.”

While also reacting to the latest development, the Department of Women told Al Jazeera that they would investigate the matter after being informed of the recent development by the municipality.

Charlotte Lobe, the media liaison of the department, said: “We don’t support anything that undermines the rights of women. If these details are true, we would definitely find it objectionable, and engage with the municipality to resolve it.”

Jennifer Thorpe, a South African activist believes that the scholarship programme discourages women from sex and its strategy of reducing the spread of HIV “silences conversation around safe sex, consent, and importantly HIV medication and treatment.

“What is needed is dialogue, information, and the provision of free contraception. This would be a more strategic line of policy for the municipality to pursue.

“Only young women and girls are subjected to this practice. Boys are not tested, and hence are not stigmatised or rewarded for their virginity.”

Speaking after receiving her award, a 22-year-old second year Pharmacy student told News24 that she did not mind the two check-ups she needed to take in order to apply for the scholarship as she was examined by an elderly woman in June and July.

She said: “They open the vagina and look, but they don’t insert anything in it. I have never heard of them getting it wrong.”

Msimang still asked those criticising the conditions of the scholarship not to misunderstand it as an attempt to thwart proposals that back abstinence.

According to her: “The longer a young person, particularly a girl, abstains from sex, the better, so this is not about suggesting that abstinence is a bad idea. But this type of programme ignores the fact that sexual behaviour of young women is often not on their terms.

“Many young women don’t have sex because ‘they feel for it’. These are often choices out of their hands.”

The government of Eritrea has reportedly ordered men in the country to marry at least two wives. This is said to be coming in order to ‘help’ the situation of shortage of men caused by enormous casualties suffered during the civil war with Ethiopia.