TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST: THE QUESTION THAT CREATES MORE QUESTIONS…
Virginity testing (VT) in the world is nothing new to African and Asian cultures. The reasons for conducting them however have evolved, and so have the opinions on practice. Opinion is often adverse to the practice, however it always seems to be a general battle between tradition and change, more so in this subject matter of high sensitivity, with the two sides wanting the best outcome for the dynamic investigation: To test or not to test. The flip side of the question is to ask what is most important and has an extensive bearing on society at large? It needs to be something effective, sustainable and demonstrate irrefutable results with time.
A South African Focus…
VT in South Africa started as a traditional custom that taught young women that their virginity is valuable and something you must have pride in. Being a virgin until marriage also meant that the literal price of proposal from a man would be higher because you were ‘pure’, therefore more money (in the form of cows) to the future brides family. VT is an event in the village that encompasses song and dance to celebrate the virgins of the African soil. Girl by girl they enter the hut, are examined by an elder. A virgin is certified with a white mark on her forehead, and a red mark indicates a broken virginity. In summary there is public declaration and grouping of those that are virgins and those that are not- in that case they proceed to counseling and are educated about the implications of a sexually active lifestyle. Is there more damage than good to the results being made public to human dignity or is it an encouraging factor that people can know about it and talk openly about it?
VT reemerged in the 21st century as means to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic and demonstrated considerable changes in the teenage pregnancy rate in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the prominent area that still practices VT. Teenage pregnancy in South Africa is most common among the impoverished and having a child at a young age impels the cycle of poverty to become a closed circle with a hidden beginning and an unclear solution.
As much as VT is considered to be a voluntary practice, how much of that is accurate to the true feelings of these girls? Do people test out of the fear of falling victim to smearing gossip? Why should the burden of remaining a virgin be placed on the female, while the male has less regulation in terms of sexual activity?
With the world becoming more Westernised, liberal and democratic; Human Rights, Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights become an affliction on tradition and the debate furies on. The central element of it is morality and everyone re-defining everything because they mean to progress, which actually causes regression because there is an element of “break and rebuild”. I think that is the inclination of human beings always wanting to make things complicated. But at the same time, one shouldn’t fall into the trap of simplifying what is complicated and complicating what is simple. Another central element is time. “What was relevant then isn’t relevant now.” 50 years ago children were not raping children. In the 20th century we were not testing virginities for the sake of disease but merely for the sake of morality. We were not testing infants to see if they were being sexually abused. Which era would you rather prefer? Is it a case of choosing the lesser evil? Or just forgetting about the past and dealing with the current situation- because quite frankly we talk too much about things that have happened, and not what we are going to do to make the best of the situation.
End of part 1. Think about it.