Virginity Scholarships in South Africa

Dudu Mazibuko, a mayor in  the uThukela municipality in South Africa, has recently awarded scholarships to 16 young women for staying virgins he says he is rewarding them for being “pure and focus on school.” The scholarship program was created this year and is controversial.  All the women have to do to receive funding is remain virgins and take regular virginity tests. Participation is entirely optional. Activists around the world are calling for virginity testing to be banned in South Africa claiming that it is sexist and a human rights violation. However, people have defended the practice saying that it preserves the South African tradition, while becoming more modern and serves a purpose that ultimately helps the girls involved avoid pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases while helping them get an education. These benefits are certainly needed since South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, and of that population the highest number of HIV cases are in the women 15-24 age group.

I saw this article from a world news twitter account and it reminded me of anthropology because it I initially thought “oh this is weird that’s crazy scholarships for virginity?” then I tried to take a step back and think of how their culture might be different from our own and maybe it wasn’t as outlandish as it first appeared. In a country where females both have a hard time getting an education and sexually transmitted diseases are an issue this solution does have characteristics that are beneficial. However, I still do not agree that it is a good idea for a multitude of reasons. One being a girl could be a raped and no longer a virgin, another is that it supports a gender inequality of holding girls to a higher standard than boys. This reminded me of the difference between cultural relativism and moral relativism. I can understand and accept that virginity testing is a part of their culture and always has been, but I cannot say that I agree with this program. Do you think that this program should continue?

Reference:

Why South African mayor offers virgin scholarships. (2016, February 10). BBC News. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35534420

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