Johannesburg: The Commission for Gender Equality ruled on Friday that the scheme offering university scholarships to young South African women who remain virgins is unconstitutional.
It also said that the programme discriminated against women because male students were not subjected to the same tests.
A South African mayor has proposed a strange scheme for girls last week which said, that 16 girls would be eligible for scholarship under the Maiden’s Bursary Awards program. The girl have to remain virgin throughout the course of their university. This has sparked outrage among the women’s rights groups for pinning virginity to education.
The spokesperson for the municipality said. “Those children who have been awarded bursaries will be checked whenever they come back for holidays. The bursary will be taken away if they lose their virginity.”
It triggered a nationwide debate in January, with critics calling the scheme’s emphasis on virginity outdated and traditionalists saying it would help preserve African culture.
The Commission said in a statement that. “Any funding by an organ of state based on a woman’s sexuality perpetuates patriarchy and inequality in South Africa.”
Sanja Bornman, an attorney with Lawyers for Human Rights. “It is not the cultural practice that is the problem here; it is the allocation of state funds on the basis of girls’ sexuality that violates the constitutional protection to equality, dignity and privacy.”
Dudu Mazibuko, the mayor who initiated the program, said this scheme would help reduce teenage pregnancy and the spread of HIV/Aids as well as widening job opportunities for women in her small municipality in KwaZulu Natal province.
But gender activists and some political parties condemned the practice, with the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party describing it as “patriarchal and anti-women”.