Today I read a very scary article. The article was basically talking about how the UThukela District Municipality in Durban was awarding what they called “special” bursaries to girls who remained “pure” and these “pure” girls would have to undergo regular virginity testing in order to keep her bursary… (yes, I was also shocked that this what a thing in 2016 )

Now in reading the article you realise that the intention is one that comes from an honest place. The fact of the matter is KZN like many parts of Southern Africa is a province that has massive issues with HIV, teenage pregnancy, and child headed households due to the ramifications of unprotected sex. The reality is that most of the people who make up these statistics are young women, BUT the solution Durban, is not to subject WOMEN and ONLY women to such a system in order to ensure purity…

You see this idea of purity is one that is extremely problematic within our society. It’s this idea of purity that sees grown men travelling to countries like  Columbia in order to have sex with young 14 year old girl because she is PURE. It’s this “purity” that is the reason why you see the rise in sex tourism globally because there are disgusting people out there who think it’s okay to spend money in order to sleep with a virgin. This idea of purity is why young women die travelling to a reed dance in order to be celebrated by a community because Lord knows if you don’t get a reed your family will be very very disappointed that you aren’t pure. It’s purity that will get you a bursary from the UThukela municipality.


I would be fine with society emphasising innocence if it wasn’t only directed at women ad actually achieved something tangible. I don’t see why as a girl your ability to study further is determined by your hymen being intact but a boy in your class with the same marks as you will never be subjected to such a humiliating process.

What you need to understand is that virginity does not mean innocence at all. There are countless stories of girls  having every other kind of sex possible except the one that will make you fail the virginity test. That is not innocence. Having your hymen intact may mean you don’t have a baby and you are “pure” but it doesn’t mean you are protected from the tonnes of other STI’s that can be transmitted through the other ways of pleasure.

If you want to protect girls you educate them! You tell them the harms of unprotected sex and then -this is the part governments forget- you need to provide GOOD local clinics with contraceptives, testing, cervical cancer shots and everything else you need to protect that young girl who has the right to make a rational choice to have sex. And you know what else you do? You educate the boys as well! And trust me you will achieve those results you need without marginalizing girls.

The fact that you are or aren’t a virgin should not be what defines whether you succeed or fail in life.  Once we all step out of our bubble and recognise that the choice to have sex is a legitimate choice and even if it happens at an age we don’t approve of the only way to protect the most vulnerable is not by isolating them based on an obscure version of innocence.

Written by Irene Mpofu (Third year BCom LLB Student at Witwatersrand and my best friend of 15 years)

You can read the article mention above on this link: Girls be warned: Lose your virginity, you lose your bursary


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