Virginity Testing in South Africa By : Erica M. Berkowitz
Zulu warriors (late 19th Century) <ul><li>The Zulu are a South African ethnic group of about 10 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal </li></ul><ul><li>Their main language is isiZulu,a Bantu language . The Bantu languages constitute a grouping belong to the Niger-Congo family </li></ul>
Flag of South Africa <ul><li>The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in apartheid during 1949 until democratic elections in 1994. Under apartheid (racial segregation in South Africa) the Zulus were legally classified into racial groups and separated from each other on the basis of legal classification </li></ul>
What is Virginity Testing? <ul><li>Virginity testing is done in many different ways depending on the country. Primarily, the vagina is examined to see whether of nor the girl’s hymen is intact. </li></ul><ul><li>Virginity testing is done in countries concerned with women’s honor or serious diseases such as AIDS </li></ul><ul><li>Virginity testing is seen as a way to curb women’s sexuality before marriage and keep them “pure” until then </li></ul>
The Hymen <ul><li>The hymen is a thin membrane that covers the opening of the vagina </li></ul><ul><li>Most girls are born with a hymen, although some are born without it </li></ul><ul><li>Many doctors say that the hymen is not a good indicator of virginity because the hymen can be easily ruptured through sports and physical activities, and even through tampon use </li></ul>
The original use of Virginity Testing <ul><li>Originally used in the Zulu kingdom to set bridal dowries (11 head of cattle was given for the virgin instead of the standard 10) </li></ul><ul><li>Dowry is the transfer of goods and/or services from the bride’s family to the groom’s family </li></ul><ul><li>Virginity testing died out in the 20th century during colonialism. It resurfaced in the mid-1990’s. </li></ul>
Virginity testing today in South Africa <ul><li>Government officials in Zulu estimate that tens of thousands are being examined each month </li></ul><ul><li>It is believed by the community leaders that by reviving this old cultural tradition, they are in turn protecting themselves from AIDS by promoting abstinence </li></ul><ul><li>Particularly among the Zulu, infants as young as 4 months were being tested to protect themselves against sexual abuse </li></ul>
<ul><li>About 3.6 million of South </li></ul><ul><li>African’s 40.5 million </li></ul><ul><li>people have HIV or AIDS, </li></ul><ul><li>giving the country one of the worse rates of </li></ul><ul><li>infection, according to the United Nations. Young </li></ul><ul><li>people are particularly </li></ul><ul><li>vulnerable. The latest </li></ul><ul><li>government data shows that the number of </li></ul><ul><li>pregnant teenagers with </li></ul><ul><li>HIV rose by 64 % last year </li></ul>Before testing, mud is applied to body
These Virginity tests raise such questions as: <ul><li>How hygienic are the inspections? </li></ul><ul><li>How much anatomical knowledge do those doing the testing have? </li></ul><ul><li>Is testing a human </li></ul><ul><li>rights violation? </li></ul><ul><li>Jabu Mdlalose, front, and elders in Lamontville, tested a girl and decided she was not a virgin </li></ul>
Who does the Virginity testing? <ul><li>According to custom, the elder women in the community conducts the tests, in some families as often as once a month </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional leaders see virginity testing as a part of sex education </li></ul><ul><li>There is not any government licensing of a virginity tester </li></ul>Photo of a tester
<ul><li>Girls lay down on a mat and the testers check to see if their hymen is intact during the virginity testing </li></ul><ul><li>Newly branded virgins often wear colorful dots on their forehead to show their purity to the world, but because of the existing myth that having sexual intercourse with a virgin will cure AIDS, many women are raped after the examination </li></ul>
“ We don’t force them,” a tester said, as the girls lined up. “The girls want to protect themselves.” A few girls attributed the turnout..57 in all, aged five to 24..to parental pressure. Many others said they enjoyed the camaraderie and took pride in the ritual. <ul><li>Duduzele Mqadi, a tester, with Karabo Ngobese, 19, who was found to be a virgin. “At first it was embarrassing,” Ms. Ngobese said of the test. </li></ul>
Boys are also tested by examining the penis. A hard foreskin is a sign of purity. The boys are instructed to urinate through a wire (which is placed between two trees three feet off the ground) without using their hands. If they urinate in a straight line, they are virgins. They also test boys by having them urinate in the sand. A virgin makes a straight hole. However, it is mostly girls that are tests and expected to remain “pure” until marriage.
The Virginity Test as a means for celebration <ul><li>At times, the testing can be a cause for a great celebration for the Zulu culture where animals are slaughtered such as cows </li></ul><ul><li>This photo depicts a celebration in Kwazulu-Natal after a Virginity testing ceremony </li></ul>
<ul><li>A recent Virginity testing ceremony was also a coming-of-age celebrations for the two young girls seen wrapped in blankets. Their parents sponsored the ceremony, which features prayers to ancestors, a dip in the moonlight river, and the slaughter of a goat </li></ul>
Prizes For Virginity The result of the test is proclaimed on the spot with some virgins receiving documents certifying their status. Having passed the test, the girls are free to take part in “Umhlana”, the annual reed dance ceremony celebrating virginity.
New Uses for Condoms <ul><li>Like many advocates of virginity inspections, some advise against youngsters using condoms because they believe that they encourage sexual promiscuity. At the recent virginity celebration. Church leaders shouted slogans, and scores of young virgins hollered back, “Long live morality and virginity!” “Down with condoms!” Down with Premarital sex!” </li></ul>
Politics and Virginity Testing <ul><li>Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s Deputy President, has encouraged teenage girls to take virginity tests to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy </li></ul><ul><li>Zuma said it is an African cultural tradition for a woman to value her virginity </li></ul><ul><li>Zuma stated that early pregnancy leads to abandoned babies </li></ul>Jacob Zuma
The Children’s Rights Bill This Bill was passed in July of 2005 by the National Assembly but awaits approval from the National Council of Provinces, bans virginity testing, saying it violates the human rights of girls. <ul><li>Protestors said: “We go through the virginity test because we want to. After all, it is my body to do with what I want. Why should the government dictate to me what I should not do with my own body? They are violating our rights to practice our culture.” </li></ul>More than 300 virgins march in protest in Pietermaritzburg in July against the passing of the Childrens Bill approved by the National Assembly .
The Children’s Rights Bill <ul><li>This Bill outlaws Female Genital Mutilation, gives boys to right to refuse ritual circumcision, and prohibits forced marriage </li></ul><ul><li>The Bill has already been amended, taking into account objections from traditional leaders to restrict the ban on virginity tests to girls under 16. Consent must be give for girls older than 16. </li></ul><ul><li>The Department of Social Development and the Children’s Bill Steering Committee on the National Council of Provinces had the following recommendations on the Bill: Virginity testing should be allowed for children over 16 years but there should be limitations </li></ul>
Recommendations for The Bill <ul><li>That Virginity testing should be done in private </li></ul><ul><li>That the instruments and environment be sterile and hygienic </li></ul><ul><li>The child must give informed consent before being tested </li></ul><ul><li>The child has a right to refuse testing </li></ul><ul><li>The child that has passed should not be marked </li></ul><ul><li>The results of the test should not be made public </li></ul>
Are Virginity Tests Useful? <ul><li>It has been noted that young girls are opting for anal sex rather than loose their virginity which may contribute to the rise of HIV/AIDS cases </li></ul><ul><li>Testing has been noted to lead to discrimination to those living with HIV and AIDS and the tests rely on shame and the fear of stigmatization rather than choice to abstain. Those that fail the test are shunned. It is also likely to lead to people failing to disclose that they are HIV positive and failing to live life in a positive manner with that virus and seeking treatment. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Countries such as Uganda have been successful in bringing down the infection rates largely due to removing the stigma surrounding the disease. </li></ul><ul><li>Virginity testing fails to take into account such involuntary sexual encounters such as rape which are not reported due to shame </li></ul><ul><li>HIV is also spread throughout marriage and a girl or young woman who has avoided contracting the virus may later contract it from her husband or another partner if the main reason for her abstinence was to pass the virginity test </li></ul>
<ul><li>“ The main reason for the testing is to maintain the purity of a woman…(and) it really does help in the prevention of the spread of AIDS”-Princess Thembi Zulu-Ndlovu </li></ul><ul><li>It has always been amongst the Zulus. I really do not see it stopping,” said Princess Thembi Zulu-Ndlovu. She is the organizer of the largest virginity test in the country and is the King’s sister. </li></ul><ul><li>King Zwelithini defended the reed dance, saying that it depicted the rich cultural heritage of the kingdom of the Zulu and celebrated the proud origins of the Zulu people. </li></ul>
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