Lawyers argue against controversial Maidens Bursary

Lawyers for Human Rights says the Maidens Bursary entrenches gender inequality.

FILE. The controversial funding for young women seeking tertiary education is only awarded on condition that a girl is a virgin and will uphold this status until completing her qualification. Picture: Stock.xchng

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers for Human Rights says the Maidens Bursary offered by the Uthukela Municipality entrenches gender inequality by holding girls to a different sexual standard.

The controversial funding for young women seeking tertiary education is only awarded on condition that a girl is a virgin and will uphold this status until completing her qualification.

The municipality has continuously defended the bursary, saying the girls apply voluntarily and it does not aim to discriminate, also saying it is voluntary and there are other funding options for 'non-virgins'.

Mayor Dudu Mazibuko says, "Even the girl's themselves do not think it's a problem."

However Lawyers for Human Rights has argued that government cannot use physical features to fund academically deserving and needy students.

"We all have a constitutional right to practice a culture and religion of our choice but what is at issue is the practical discriminatory effect of a government policy decision."

The municipality insists that the practice of virginity testing has existed in the Zulu culture for decades, making the bursary acceptable.