A mayor in South Africa awarded scholarships to 16 girls because they are virgins, according to the Associated Press, which said the young women have voluntarily abstained from sex and have agreed to undergo regular virginity tests to keep their scholarships.
Uthukela Mayor Dudu Mazibuko said the funding will be renewed “as long as the child can produce a certificate” saying she’s still a virgin. “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,” Mazibuko said.
The reason this community — located in the eastern South African province of KwaZulu-Natal — introduced the scholarships is because young women are more vulnerable to exploitation, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease, according to Mazibuko. Teen pregnancy is a major issue in South African, where 22,286 girls between the ages of 10 and 19 became pregnant in 2013, according to research from a professor at North-West University in South Africa. A survey by Statistics South African found that 5.6 percent of South Africans girls between the ages of 14 to 19 were pregnant in 2013, the Associated Press reported.
At least one group in South African is taking issue with the virgin scholarships. Mfanozelwe Shozi, chairman of the Commission for Gender Equality, said the mayor’s intentions are good but the scholarship is ultimately discriminatory. “There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity and even against boys,” he told the AP. “This is going too far.”