Zulu maidens marched in the streets of Pietermaritzburg.
Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO / ANA
DURBAN - HUNDREDS of maidens marched to the Office of the Premier in Pietermaritzburg in a bid to challenge the United Nation's Human Rights, UN Women and the World Health Organization's (WHO) call to end virginity testing.
Clad in their traditional outfit, maidens marched through Langalibalele (Long Market) Street in the province's capital city, while singing and dancing in support of virginity testing practice.
This comes after a joint statement last month called for governments, health professionals and communities to act on eliminating the virginity testing practice.
However, maidens who were led by Nomagugu Ngobese, a cultural activist and director of the Nomkhubulwane Culture and Youth Development Organisation, said they found it strange that the global organisations were deliberately imposing a ban on their ritual.
In the memorandum addressed to President Cyril Ramaphosa, maidens said they refuse to adhere to the standard of white femininity and white mode of what is “culturally appropriate” for black people, especially for indigenous women.
They asked eight questions, which they demanded response response within 10 days.
Among the questions was:
1. Why customary laws are distorted in the country?
2. Why are African norms and values oppressed in the country?
The UN Human Rights, UN Women and WHO had stated that they were committed to ending virginity testing and ensuring that the rights of all women and girls were upheld.
They said women and girls were subjected, and often forced, to undergo virginity testing.
“These include requests from parents or potential partners to establish marriage eligibility or from employers for employment eligibility,” said the statement.
The organisations called on governments to enforce laws that ban virginity testing.
Ngobese referred to the intentions as a dictatorship.
“Dictatorship is our daily experience from the status quo. From now on we will not allow anyone to come and interfere with how we bring up our children, nor will any ritual be interfered with by prejudice biases," she said.
Many commentators have taken to social media since the call to say virginity testing was violent against women.
The fact that #VirginityTesting is a mandatory practice in many court cases in the UAE is horrific. To me, it’s no different than rape. However you want to look at it, it’s still a human rights violation. Too many women have been emotionally traumatized by this practice. pic.twitter.com/QXipl7lnIC
The term “virginity” is not a medical or scientific term. Rather, the concept of “virginity” is a social, cultural and religious construct – one that reflects gender discrimination against women and girls.