Dark knees tell all, says 'virginity tester'

Boys in one of South Africa's biggest townships, KwaMashu, to the north of Durban, are set to undergo virginity testing, a controversial custom widely carried out among girls in KwaZulu-Natal.

Female virginity tester Nokulunga Majola is one of the traditionalists pushing for virginity testing to be extended to teenage and unmarried males in the township.

The idea received its strongest backing when a well-known campaigner for a return to traditional customs, Reggie Khumalo, of Isivivane Sama Siko, a body promoting African traditional cultures, offered to train older men to perform the tests. Khumalo said he had been tested as a boy and that was how he had learned about the method.

The boys would have to volunteer to be tested.

Teenage boys in Madadeni, outside Newcastle, Ixopo and at Hlanganani, near Bulwer in the Midlands, had been undergoing the tests for years, he said.

"These tests are done on a monthly basis and are to help young boys and young men to save themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases."

Asked about the test procedure, he said it was an old, well known tradition.

"Young boys also have hymen - white lacy skin on the foreskin. If the foreskin on the penis slips away easily, it means the hymen is gone. If the foreskin is sore and hard to move, then it means he is still a virgin," Khumalo said.

Other methods include checking for a certain vein on the penis.

"The only time the vein can disappear is when a boy sleeps with a virgin because her vaginal opening is still tight," he said. "If a boy urinates straight up into the air, he is a virgin. If the urine sprays, he has had sex before."

Khumalo said expert male virginity testers could determine virginity by looking at the colour of the knees. If a man's knees are dark, he is not a virgin.

When approached for comment, Linksfield clinic gynaecologist Merwyn Jacobson disagreed with all of Khumalo's male virginity tests. "There is no scientific basis for this, but I am open to education.

"Men don't have hymen and what happens if a guy masturbates... it makes the foreskin looser," Dr Jacobson said.

By Lee Rondganger and Sapa

"Some men are very hygienic and retract the foreskin to clean the penis; they are very diligent with cleaning under the foreskin and get rid of those secretions - then the foreskin will also slip back easily."

Former Medical University of SA's head of medicine and cardiology, physician Patrick Mokhoba, said there was no way a boy's anatomy could be tested for sexual experience. "Males have no hymen."

When Khumalo was told about the doctors' views, he reacted: "Forget about doctors. They don't know what they are talking about. If they say boys don't have hymen, what do they call the white part around the foreskin then?"

Dr Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala, a lecturer at the University of Natal, who did a presentation on virginity testing in the US last year, said one effect of virginity testing was to "create fear" among teenagers to prevent them from having sex.

"Virginity testing in no way helps halt the spread of Aids unless part of the testing is done with sex education."

She added that although virginity testing formed a part of Zulu tradition, certain aspects of that tradition needed to be modified.

sign up