Brave new world: vir­gin testers and eu­geni­cists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

TO UN­TAMED KwaZulu-Natal where ANC pro­vin­cial leader and MEC for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism Sihle Zikalala has been putting the world to rights.

Most no­tably, he’s taken on An­dre Slade, the con­tro­ver­sial Sod­wana Bay guest house owner who’s earned the wrath of the na­tion for not al­low­ing black peo­ple or gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees into his es­tab­lish­ment.

Zikalala has vowed to shut down Slade’s busi­ness, evict him from the land he has leased from a tribal author­ity, and charge him with racism. Ad­dress­ing a meet­ing in the nearby vil­lage of Mbazwana this week, the MEC added, “Wher­ever he goes in SA, he must be dealt with. We are not go­ing to tol­er­ate this type of be­hav­iour.”

Slade, it must be said, has al­most too read­ily of­fered him­self up as a tar­get for the righ­teously in­dig­nant by per­sist­ing to share his toxic views with us; heap­ing out­rage and what-for on his sorry back­side re­ally is a bit like shoot­ing fish in a bar­rel.

In fact, it could well be that Slade, who does look a bit like Charles Man­son, is men­tally ill.

Given the scorn and bile di­rected at Penny Spar­row and others, not to men­tion the fi­nan­cial con­se­quences of their be­hav­iour, who in their right mind – and in this emo­tion­ally-charged en­vi­ron­ment – would read­ily face the na­tion and bab­ble on about mix­ing apri­cots with peaches? As a Ma­hogany Ridge reg­u­lar put it, “Clas­sic case of Rorke’s Drift Syn­drome. Quite com­mon in those parts. Chap thinks he’s safe hid­ing be­hind the metaphor­i­cal bis­cuit tin. Says, ‘Right, bring it on. I’ve got eu­gen­ics’. Whole thing quickly goes pear-shaped…”

As it has, as it has. But mov­ing on from Slade, it’s a pity Zikalala’s other cru­sade has not been as widely pub­li­cised: on Tues­day he gave rul­ing party sup­port for the Uthukela Dis­trict’s bur­sary pro­gramme for vir­gins.

This de­spite that, a fort­night ago, the Com­mis­sion for Gen­der Equal­ity de­clared the “maiden bur­sary award” un­law­ful, un­fair, un­rea­son­able and un­con­sti­tu­tional and that it be stopped.

“We need to en­cour­age peo­ple to be­have them­selves, (to) re­strain from sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties while they are still young,” Zikalala said. “We have an ini­tia­tive that en­cour­ages peo­ple, es­pe­cially young girls, to con­duct them­selves in a dis­ci­plined man­ner.”

Uthukela was heav­ily crit­i­cised when it un­veiled this ab­hor­rence in Jan­uary, award­ing bur­saries to 16 girls with the con­di­tion they un­dergo vir­gin­ity test­ing ev­ery hol­i­day. If it was found they were no longer vir­gins, their bur­saries would be taken away.

Ter­ri­ble irony – even as they fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion, these women are be­holden to tribal pa­tri­archies and dark su­per­sti­tions pos­ing as “cul­ture”. What hope for their en­light­en­ment, then, in such a de­mon-haunted world?

The more back­ward and re­pres­sive the so­ci­ety, the more de­grad­ing, painful and trau­matic the “test­ing” of vir­gini­ties. In In­done­sia, fe­male po­lice ap­pli­cants are sub­jected to the “two fin­gers test”. Girls in Moroc­can vil­lages are made to lie on their backs, legs spread, and have an egg cracked open on their vagi­nas; if the egg slips into them, they are judged to have had sex. It’s just as crude here. Ac­cord­ing to an­thro­pol­o­gists, girls’ gen­i­talia are prod­ded with fin­gers to in­spect the hy­men — a wholly dis­cred­ited and un­sci­en­tific pro­ce­dure; there are many women who have been sex­u­ally ac­tive for years but whose hy­mens are in­tact. The op­po­site is also the case.

Lo­cal “in­spec­tors” can also judge if a girl is a vir­gin, it is said, by her mus­cle tone and firm but­tocks, and by the way she walks. Others be­lieve a girl’s eyes will re­veal her as some­one who has slept around. More bizarrely, gen­i­talia are colour-coded to “grade” young women; the lighter, the bet­ter...

Dur­ban hosts the 21st In­ter­na­tional Aids Con­fer­ence this month, and de­tails of these prac­tices will surely in­ter­est the science and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als at­tend­ing. As it is, Zikalala has promised all KZN may­ors to en­cour­age young peo­ple to keep their hands off each other at this time.

Here at the Ridge, we’re think­ing of writ­ing a song about it. After all, the De­part­ment of Arts and Cul­ture has now re­leased an anti-racism tune by Mzwakhe Mbuli and Thuthukani Cele, so why shouldn’t we fol­low suit?

Ours would also be a bit of cod reg­gae — one of the lo­cal mu­sic gen­res cur­rently re­ceiv­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion from the SABC. Here’s the cho­rus, to be sung in a fake Ja­maican pa­tois: “Old man, old man, hear de an­gry par­ent rants/Keep yo’ hands out mi daugh­ter’s pants…” Our roy­al­ties go to Rape Cri­sis, by the way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.