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South African mayor gives scholarships to students for maintaining their virginity through high school

A mayor in South Africa has awarded college scholarships to 16 teens for maintaining their virginity through high school, the mayor's office said Sunday.

Mayor Dudu Mazibuko of the town of Uthukela tried something new this year and offered scholarships to young women in the district for remaining virgins. The program is an attempt to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy and give incentive to girls to be "pure and focus on school," the mayor's office said. Almost six percent of teen girls in South Africa became pregnant in 2013.

But the girls who applied for the scholarships have to prove they are maintaining their virginity by agreeing to be regularly tested. "To us, it's just to say thank you for keeping yourself and you can still keep yourself for the next three years until you get your degree or certificate," Mazibuko told a local South African talk radio station.

The mayor's office awards 100 scholarships each year to the most promising students from the district, but it's this new category that has stirred controversy.

"It infringes on the constitutional right to privacy, said Palesa Mpapa, legal manager for People Opposing Women Abuse, in a statement. "It also is a discriminatory practice against girls as boys are never publicly tested for virginity, yet they are parties to the cause for loss of virginity. This practice stigmatises girls who could have lost virginity through rape or incest."

Mpapa also decried the program as a "patriachal mechanism of controlling women's sexuality for marriage and it does not link to educational success."

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