Panel rules it is unconstitutional to award scholarships to girls who promise to stay virgins

By: Chan Yuan

The Commission for Gender Equality in South Africa, has ruled that awarding scholarship to girls who promise to stay virgins is unconstitutional.

Human rights organizations applauded the decision, saying that it was unfair to award scholarships to girls and not to boys.

On Friday, the panel ruled that the program is discriminatory because men were not subjected to the same tests.

Recipients of the scholarships, which were offered only to women, were forced to undergo virginity tests every time they went home for the holidays, and could lose their scholarships if determined that they had sex.

In January, the UThukela District Municipality gave the Maidens Bursary Award, sparking outrage across the world.

The scholarship was criticized by the People Opposing Women Abuse organization (POWA). POWA advocates ending the culture of virginity tests as it violates the constitutional right to privacy.

POWA also believes that it is a discriminatory practice against girls as boys are never tested for virginity despite being equally responsible for the loss of virginity in girls.

This practice stigmatizes girls who could have lost her virginity through rape or incest. The new virgin category of scholarships were the idea of Mayor Dudu Mazibuko.

The girls agreed to be tested occasionally to ensure that they remain virgins. Mazibuko said that the scholarships were intended to prevent young women from getting involved with older men.

A municipality spokesperson said the scholarships were designed to encourage girls to remain pure and focus on their education.