Butt out over virginity tests, minister told
Durban - “Butt out.” That was the blunt retort from cultural organisations to Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini after her call for a review of the practice of virginity testing.
“Enough is enough,” said Nomagugu Ngobese, of the Nomkhubulwane culture and youth development organisation.
“We are sick and tired of being spoon-fed policies that were drafted without us that are destroying our society,” she said.
In an article published on IOL on Wednesday and in the Daily Maverick online edition, Dlamini said: “Forced virginity testing is unlawful, will not stop the spread of Aids and offensive.”
The call to review the practice could be viewed as a slight to King Zwelithini, who revived the practice more than a decade ago.
Dlamini made the call following the uproar over the decision by the uThukela Municipality to offer bursaries to young women who were still virgins.
In the article, she said: “Girls under the age of 18 cannot be subjected to virginity testing. It is against the law. Girls over the age of 18 must, under the current law, give informed consent. This does not include coercion, through making access to resources to study a condition for that support. That is discrimination and not consent,” said Dlamini.
“The arguments offered by those who seek to defend the practice of virginity testing are that it is a strategy to reduce HIV and Aids and teenage pregnancy. These arguments are, at best, misguided and inadvertently provide a convenient screen for a patently harmful practice.”
But Ngobese fired back, saying this cultural practice was part of African culture.
“We have put up with these attacks for long enough … people should get out of our business.”
She said many other races practised their culture and beliefs freely, yet virginity testing was constantly attacked.
IFP leader Thembeni kaMadlopha-Mthethwa agreed.
“Not a single person has died because of virginity testing. In the Xhosa tradition, boys die while undergoing initiation to manhood, but no law has been passed to stop this Xhosa tradition,” she said.
She challenged Dlamini, who is also the ANC Women’s League president, to provide proof if any of her female relatives who had undergone virginity testing had been abused during the process, “or else she must shut up and stop her utterances”.
The IFP Women’s Brigade would continue to support King Zwelithini in advocating the need for virginity testing, she said.
The king’s spokesman, Prince Mbonisi Zulu, was surprised to hear what Dlamini had said, but would not comment.