'Maidens bursaries are unconstitutional'

The Commission for Gender Equality has ruled on the so-called virgin bursaries.

Picture: freeimages.com

JOHANNESBURG - The Commission for Gender Equality has ruled that it was unconstitutional for a KwaZulu-Natal municipality to only award study bursaries to girls who were virgins.

Recipients of the so-called Maidens Bursary had to undergo regular virginity testing so that the Uthukela Municipality could decide whether they should retain their bursaries.

The commission says this practice is unlawful, unfair, unreasonable and should be discontinued.

The commission's Thoko Mpumlwana says the rule was discriminatory and excluded many deserving candidates.

"In terms of the Constitution, everyone must be treated equally so we are trying to engage with them. We hope now they will be able to implement our findings."

It recommendations state that 2016 recipients can continue being funded for the remainder of the year and that next year's bursaries will be awarded to all deserving students.

The commission has given the Uthukela Municipality two months to change its policy.

Mpumlwana says they do accept that the Uthukela Council had good intentions with this bursary.

"We think that their intentions were good to try to build the young girls, but remember the understanding of the nuances of the Constitution seem to be problematic across the board."

She says they're glad they can correct this decision and hope that discrimination like this won't happen in the future.

The municipality had argued that traditions are important and that virginity forms part of this.

Meanwhile, rights groups have applauded today's ruling by the commission.

Lawyers for Human Rights says the allocation of state funds on the basis of a girl's sexuality violates the constitutional rights of equality, dignity and privacy.