Brave new world: virgin testers and eugenicists
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.