A district in South Africa is offering scholarships to women who agree to keep their virginity throughout college.
The story was revealed by the Agence France Presse, who talked to a spokesperson for the region of Uthukela, where the scheme has been rolled out. The representative, Jabulani Mkhonza, told the AFP that the aim was to encourage 'young girls to keep themselves pure and inactive from sexual activity and focus on their studies.'
The ultra conservative plan will even include ‘virginity tests’ for the women granted scholarships at the beginning of every term. This flawed ‘test’ will involve checking the womens’ hymens are intact - even though it is possible to break a hymen without having sexual intercourse. Women who pass the test with a ‘certificate of virginity’ will be able to continue to claim funds.
The Mayor of Uthukela, Dudu Mazibuko, told South Africa talk radio station 702 that the scholarship programme was 'to say thank you [to the women] for keeping yourself and you can still keep yourself for the next three years until you get your degree or certificate.'
Though it sounds like something right out of the dark ages, virginity testing is still implemented by institutions around the world. In Indonesia all women who want to enter the military or national police must undergo a virginity test, while in Egypt forced virginity tests on women inside military prisons were only stopped in 2011.
In the Middle East court-ordered virginity tests are common, often occuring the day after a wedding when husbands send their new wives for the test if they suspect them of having sex before marriage. Protests have also broken out in India over the practise of forcing rape victims to undergo virginity tests, which has even led to the acquittal of the rapist if the victim was found to be sexually active before the crime occurred.
A virginity testing centre in Iraq
Though the new South African scheme sounds backward-looking, the high cost of university in South Africa will mean many women have little choice but to sign up.