An academic bursary awarded to young women who can prove that they are virgins has sparked debate in South Africa. What is virginity and is it possible to test for that? Africa Check sought medical advice. Researched by Lebohang Mojapelo Follow africacheck When a KwaZulu-Natal municipality introduced an academic bursary for young women who can prove that they are virgins it caused an uproar earlier this year. The South African Human Rights Commission has reportedly now opened an investigation into the bursary. The practice of virginity testing has always been contentious, with several calls to ban it over the years.
Thousands of young Zulu maidens from all over South Africa make their way to Nongoma, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal to participate in Umkhosi womhlanga every year to help young girls to prepare for womanhood. This traditional gathering usually takes place in September, which in South Africa is heritage month. The aim is to encourage young maidens to abstain from sexual intercourse in order to become respected women in the society. Zulu maidens as they prepare to take part in the mini reed dance uMkhosi woMhlanga in the rural district of Emalangeni, Swaziland. The last 20 years has seen the revival of virginity testing in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The test on girls, designed to affirm virginal status, is based on whether the hymen is intact.