UJ students argue whether virginity tests for bursaries are constitutional

The practice of virginity testing has existed in the Zulu culture for decades. The controversial bursary – known as the Maiden’s Bursary – provides funding for young women on the condition that they undergo regular virginity testing. In 2016, the District Municipality of UThukela in KwaZulu-Natal awarded 16 girls the bursary to further their higher education studies.

Two University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) second-year law students, Mr Louis Koen (LLB) and Ms Nomathole Nhlapo (BCom Law), were lauded for their advocacy skills when crowned the overall winner in one of the country’s esteemed Moot Court competitions, the Centre for Child Law’s 7th Annual Child Law Moot Court Competition. Additionally, the team won the Best Heads of Argument prize.

The duo argued in the hypothetical case which dealt with virginity testing for girls as a requirement for eligibility for a bursary. They represented both the Applicant and Respondent and argued for the constitutionality of the bursary on one hand and against on the other hand.

The Child Law Moot Court Competition saw the UJ team competing against teams from seven universities across the country, before top judges and legal professionals, for the esteemed title. The preliminary rounds were held at the University of Pretoria on 9 September 2016, while the final round was held at the Palace of Justice on 10 September 2016.

The aim of the Child Law Moot Court Competition is to develop awareness on children’s rights and to familiarise law students with specific issues pertaining to child law and children’s rights. The competition is open to students in the process of obtaining an LLB, BCom or BA Law degree.

Says Ms Melissa Jansen van Vuuren and Ms Philisiwe Tshabalala (UJ coaches and previous winners): “This opportunity, to compete in competitions, is part of UJ’s Faculty of Law’s undertaking to graduate lawyers with wide-ranging experience in a number of legal settings.”

Second-year law student, Mr Koen pointed out that this achievement would not have been possible if it was not for the exceptional lecturing staff at UJ and all the support they received from the University.

Ms Nhlapo echoed her colleague’s sentiments. “I am proud to be associated with an institution that continues to give students opportunities to gain experience in the field,” she said.

UJ has participated for the past six years in the Child Law Moot Court Competition and this is the third year UJ won the competition.

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