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Surestart Edenballym Group

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Wesley Gomez
Wesley Gomez

African Teens Virginity

Renewed debate over the subject of virginity testing erupted in January 2016, when the uThukela district council in KwaZulu-Natal province, eastern South Africa, awarded bursaries to 16 young unmarried women, on condition that they refrain from sex for the duration of their tertiary education and agree to undergo regular testing to prove they are still virgins. The council said the bursary was an attempt to curb teenage pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS, both of which are problems in the region.

african teens virginity

Sindiso Dube (not her real name) says the young ages of the girls who take part in virginity testing, along with their lack of knowledge about their constitutional rights, leaves them open to manipulation and violation.

Recipients of the scholarships, which were offered only to women, were required to undergo virginity testing each time they returned home for holidays, and could lose their scholarships if it was determined that they had engaged in sexual activity.

A girl's virginity may be considered essential to her family's ability to arrange her marriage and receive a brideprice, as well as to family honor. In Somalia, for example, a prospective husband's family may have the right to inspect the bride's body prior to marriage, and mothers regularly check their infibulated daughters to ensure that they are still "closed."14 In this context, parents see both infibulation and early marriage as means of ensuring that their daughter remains "pure" and thus worthy of the brideprice.

In many cultures, considerable social pressure is brought to bear on families who resist conforming to the tradition of female circumcision. In Man, a town in the interior of Côte d'Ivoire, a Yacouba girl who has not been circumcised is not considered marriageable.15 Among the Samburu of Kenya, who consider uncircumcised girls unclean, promiscuous and immature, girls are generally circumcised at age 14 or 15, usually just before they are married. A girl with a younger brother may undergo circumcision if she remains unmarried by her late teens, since custom dictates that a boy with an uncircumcised older sister may not be initiated into the warrior class.16

Because of their lack of choice and the powerful influence of tradition, many girls accept circumcision as a necessary, and even natural, part of life, and adopt the rationales given for its existence. Of the five countries for which DHS data are available on women's opinions toward excision, the Central African Republic is the only one in which the majority favor discontinuation.18 A variety of justifications are given by DHS respondents who favor continuation of the practice, including preservation of virginity before marriage, fidelity after marriage, enhancement of the husband's sexual pleasure, enhancement of fertility, prevention of infant and child mortality, cleanliness and religious requirements, but tradition is by far the most commonly mentioned reason.

OBJECTIVES: To describe recent trends in age at first sex in African countries, identifying and making due allowances for a variety of common reporting errors. METHODS: Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data from six African countries conducting three or more surveys since 1985 were analysed using survival analysis techniques, combining information on virginity status and retrospective reporting of age at first sex. Hazard analysis was used to separate the effects of reporting error and compositional change and to estimate true changes in sexual debut over time. A multistate life table analysis incorporating transition to first marriage allowed cohorts to be classified according to person years spent as virgins, as sexually active unmarried, and married. RESULTS: Intersurvey comparisons generally suggested a slow secular rise in age at first sex. However, tracing birth cohorts between surveys revealed inconsistencies--median ages reported by female members of a birth cohort in their teens were generally higher than those reported when they reached their twenties, even when allowing for residence and education changes--probably a result of young, sexually active women denying they had ever had sex. Male birth cohorts tend to display the opposite kind of bias. CONCLUSIONS: Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana have experienced a more pronounced and unambiguous decline in premarital sexual activity than Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with statistically significant increases in age at first sex. In addition, Uganda has maintained a very short interval between onset of sexual activity and marriage for both sexes.

The practice awesomely exemplifies men's fear of women's sexuality. Cut and restitched, the girl's genital area is under control. If her virginity is lost, and the fleshly seal breached, it will be obvious. Men are guaranteed virgins who are unlikely to stray. Sex for the future woman is to be a duty, not a pleasure.

To some eyes, the results of genital reconstruction are appealing, an improvement on the wet, lumpy natural female genitals, source of uncontrollable desires. After thousands of years aesthetic view conforms with deeply embedded attitudes about sex, virginity and marriage. After the operation a girl is smooth, dry and in control of her body.

Education, especially of women, is the single most important factor in persuading parents to abandon the practice. Not only can education impart health dangers, but it provides an alternative context in which precious notions about feminine sexuality and marital responsibility can be upheld. Traditionalists need to learn that virginity is prized in many societies, but does not require that clitoridectomy be performed as a sanction. 041b061a72


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