HRC to probe Maiden Bursaries


A young maiden is photographed standing opposite a choir of maidens during a Reed Dance ceremony in Swaziland.

DURBAN - The Human Rights Commission is deciding whether or not to take action over the so-called Maiden Bursaries.

Maidens Bursary Award is a new category announced at the Uthukela&39;s Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards in January.

A total of 113 pupils from various schools received these bursaries, sixteen of which went to the girls for still being virgins.

The students are required to undergo regular virginity testing every holiday to ensure they are not sexually active.

And if they fail the test, the bursaries will be taken away.

The bursary scheme has been widely criticised.

Despite the outrage, the uThukela mayor has defended the initiative.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos says the Maidens’ Bursary amounts to discrimination.

He says culture can not infringe on anyone’s constitutional rights.

"There&39;s a provision in the constitution that says everybody has a right to celebrate and uphold their culture, but there&39;s a subsection that says this has to be done in a way that isn&39;t going to infringe on any of the other rights in the bill of rights, including their right not to be discriminated against," said De Vos.

"If an Afrikaner group says it’s part of our culture to discriminate against black people, that isn&39;t acceptable. Part of your culture has to yield to the more important consideration of respecting the human dignity of everyone. The same will apply...this is quite a clear cut case I would imagine."

But the mayor, Dudu Mazibuko, has defended the bursary scheme, saying it&39;s intended to reduce HIV and unwanted pregnancies.

"We find young girls that are very proud of themselves that want to grow," said Mazibuko.

"In fact, when we interview them they tell will you I have goals that I want to achieve and until I achieve them I want to remain a virgin. So it happens in the townships and the villages. So us as the municipality we are just supporting them. This is what the community said they wanted."

The Commission for Gender Equality is set to meet Mazibuko on Friday. 

For an update, watch the video above.

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