South Africa’s ‘virgin bursaries’ ruled unconstitutional
University scholarships for female students who stay virgins are unconstitutional, a South African government commission ruled Friday after a local municipality introduced the scheme earlier this year.
Uthukela municipality, in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, awarded “maidens’ bursaries” to 16 students on condition they refrained from sex until they graduated.
Municipality mayor Dudu Mazibuko told AFP in March that the scholarships were an effective way to curb the spread of HIV and control teenage pregnancies.
But an investigation by the Commission for Gender Equality concluded that the study grants were unlawful.
The commission said that “a bursary contingent on a female student’s virginity is fundamentally discriminatory”.
“It goes against the ethos of the constitutional provisions in relation to dignity, equality and discrimination.”
One of the scholarship conditions was that during their holidays the students would be subjected to supposed virginity tests traditionally conducted by elderly women.
The tests have been severely criticised by rights groups and dismissed by medical experts.
“Virginity is not intrinsic to the task of studying,” the commission added, giving the municipality 60 days to respond to its recommendation that the scholarship scheme should be closed.
The size of the grants varies, but can be worth several thousand dollars a year.