South African town says it will give scholarships to girls who stay virgins

A South African town has decided it will give 16 girls college scholarships but only on the condition that they remain virgins.

According to the BBC, the mayor of the town in the Uthukela district of eastern KwaZulu-Natal province is defending the decision as a way to “reduce HIV, AIDS and unwanted pregnancy.” As Newsweek reports, the mayor also said that the virginity testing would be carried out as part of the preparations for a Zulu dance ceremony where virgins perform a dance for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Authorities estimate that around 6.8 million people in South Africa live with AIDS, making it one of the nation’s largest health issues. The South African Broadcasting Corporation also reported that South Africa’s Department of Basic Education recorded at least 20,000 pregnancies among girls in school in 2014, and another study said that some 5.6 percent of the nation’s females ages 14-19 were pregnant.

According to the Associated Press, the girls will be given the scholarships only if they regularly pass virginity tests. Some have called the requirements discriminatory.

“I think the intentions of the mayor are great but what we don’t agree with is giving bursaries for virginity,” chairman for the Commission for Gender Equality Mfanozelwe Shozi told the AP. “There is an issue around discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, virginity and even against boys. This is going too far.”