“I don’t care what people say, but I don’t believe there is a mother out there who wants their teenage girls having sex at that age and we are not forcing or pressurising them to take part,” said Elina Maphumulo from KwaNoshezi, outside Pietermaritzburg.
Maphumulo and a dozen others brought a group of more than a thousand maidens to the Reed Celebration held at Enyokeni Royal Palace, in Nongoma . More than 10 000 maidens, some from Soweto, participated in the event where the prerequisite was passing a virginity test.
She said the group would have been larger, but some of their girls had fallen into temptation.
“At the end of the day, we just want to see all the children safe from sexually-transmitted illnesses and not falling pregnant at a young age,” added the 60-year-old.
Virginity testers also run regular workshops on bullying, life skills, human trafficking and health and safety to empower the maidens.
Fikisephi Nkosi, from Eshowe, said she had been doing virginity testing for more than 15 years. The mother of three daughters said she was trained by other women to do it because she wanted her daughters tested at home.
“My daughters grew up at the time when a lot of people had Aids-related illnesses so I was scared and wanted to do everything I could to protect them, but at the time all I could think of was virginity testing,” she explained.
The word got around and soon other women were bringing their children to her to be tested. Then she heard on the radio about maidens meeting in different districts for workshops and took her girls.
“At the workshop the other women told me about the Reed Dance, that was 11 years ago, and I’ve been coming here since,” she said.
Both Nkosi and Maphumulo said it hurt deeply when one of their girls fell pregnant out of wedlock.
“Virginity testing is not a fool-proof plan so you can’t say a child will never be tempted to do something wrong, but it can be one of the tools we use as parents to protect our children from those who want to prey on them,” Maphumulo said.
She warned parents against shifting the responsibility for raising their children to virginity testers, saying it should be a partnership.
“We need to work together on this. For example, I can’t tell a child that under-age drinking is bad for them, but when they get home their parents buy them liquor.”