25 October 2016

South Africa: MPs Hail Virgin Bursary Scheme for Promoting 'Good Behaviour'

Members of Parliament on Tuesday praised the Uthukela District Municipality for promoting "good behaviour" with its bursaries for female virgins.

Virginity testing was a "black person's pride", women in the presidency committee chairperson Thandi Memele said.

"We are very proud of those young girls who took it upon themselves to look after their bodies. Who remain virgins in spite of circumstances."

In January, it emerged that the municipality had offered study bursaries to young women, on condition that they remained virgins. They had to subject themselves to regular virginity testing in order to keep the bursary.

The municipality and the Commission for Gender Equality appeared before the committee on Tuesday. The commission took the committee through its findings and recommendations, and called for the bursary to be scrapped.

'Let us encourage good behaviour'

MPs, however, lauded the municipality and said a balance had to be found between Western doctrines and African cultural practices.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said merging cultural practices with educational development was a step in the right direction.

The country was faced with problems, including "blessers" and HIV/Aids. Such matters had to be dealt with in a balanced and measured way.

"Let us encourage good behaviour. We need constructive deterrence, and I believe that this was one of them."

The "highly sexual" entertainment industry was another danger facing young women.

"There needs to be an alternative to that kind of lifestyle. And if we are merging cultural practices with educational development, that's a step in the right direction. I really hoped it's relooked at, and for us to take the emotions out of it and look at the benefits," Hlengwa said.

National Council of Provinces ANC MP James Mthethwa said virginity testing had been a practice "since our forefathers".

'Values of our culture must be respected'

He congratulated the municipality and said it had done nothing wrong.

"They made us proud. They encourage our youngsters not to destroy themselves and get engaged in sex at an early stage. And this culture of ours is not forced on anybody. The values of our culture must be respected," he said.

NFP MP Nhlanhla Khubisa said the practice had deep roots in African culture.

"I am grateful that the municipality is taking some steps to ensure that there is something that is done to encourage our girls to take care of themselves."

The municipality said it was applying the commission's recommendations.

In its report released in June, the commission said the bursaries were unlawful, unfair, unreasonable and unconstitutional, and should be discontinued. It said the recipients should keep their bursaries, without having to be subjected to more tests.

The bursary scheme failed to take into account circumstances beyond the control of the recipients, such as rape, which may lead to loss of virginity, it said.

Source: News24

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