The Commission for Gender Equality added that recipients should keep their bursaries without having to be subjected to more tests.
The bursary was awarded to 16 young women from the uThukela District Municipality on condition that they remained “pure”. In its report on the bursary, the commission slammed it as unjust.
CGE CEO Keketso Maema told the media on Friday that the commission had found the issuing of study bursaries only to virgin female students to be discriminatory.
“It violates their constitutional right to equality, dignity and privacy,” Maema said. “Culture and cultural practice should not be used as a factor to exclude those who do not subscribe . . . from benefiting or receiving from services provided by government.”
The commission found that the bursary scheme failed to take into account circumstances beyond the control of the recipients, such as rape, that may lead to the loss of virginity.
The recipients had to undergo virginity testing every holiday to ensure they weren’t sexually active.
The municipality introduced the new category of bursaries during its Mayoral Matric Excellence Awards on 11 January this year.
The virginity scheme amounted to a gender discriminatory practice against the girls, the commission found, as it created an additional burden on them to “remain virgins” without imposing the same burden of responsibility on boys through a similar scheme.
The commission also found that the district municipality had failed in its constitutional obligations and has recommended that the scheme be discontinued.
The report had been handed over to the municipality, the commission said.