“The grants will be renewed as long as the child can produce a certificate that she is still a virgin.”

A South African mayor of the Uthukela district in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province has offered college scholarships to 16 young women who, as a condition of receiving the scholarship, have pledged to stay virgins.

The girls will be subject to regular virginity testing until they reach college age. Jabulani Mkhonza, spokesperson for Mayor Dudu Mazibuk, stated the scholarship was to give girls incentive to remain, “pure and focus on school”.

According to the Associated Press, Mayor Mazibuk also made a statement to South African radio station, 702, “To us, it’s just to say thank you for keeping yourself, and you can still keep yourself for the next three years until you get your degree or certificate. The grants will be renewed as long as the child can produce a certificate that she is still a virgin.”

The reason the scholarship is geared towards girls as opposed to boys is because they are much more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and of course, unwanted pregnancy. In 2014, approximately 20,000 pregnancies were recorded by South Africa’s department of basic education  among girls and young women in schools. In addition, 223 of these pregnancies were to girls still in primary school. A household survey conducted by Statistics South Africa revealed 5.6 per cent of South African girls aged 14 to 19 were pregnant in 2013.

Many have supported the introduction of the scholarship. However, there is a significant voice opposing it, although virginity testing with consent is not against the constitution in South Africa. Protesters have dubbed virginity tests invasive and sexist, and have called for them to be banned.

“I think the intentions of the mayor are great, but what we don’t agree with is giving bursaries for virginity,” said chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality, Mfanozelwe Shozi.

“There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity, and even against boys. This is going too far.”

However, those who support the scholarship disagree. They state inciting girls to abstain from sex will prevent a myriad of health problems, and will ideally inspire other girls to do the same.

Although the idea of preserving virginity, and virginity testing falls under the umbrella of ‘sexism’ in much of the Western world, South Africa is faced with issues overrriding the attitudes of the West. Any movement directed at preventing unwanted pregnancy in girls and teenagers in countries like South Africa, as well as attempting to control the spread of STDs, should be given fair treatment in the face of political correctness.

Comment: What are your thoughts on South Africa’s extreme stance on virginity?