Gender activists have lambasted the virginity tests on girls participating in the annual Royal Zulu Reed Dance.
They say the tests are discriminatory because they focus only on women.
However, Zulu culturalists see nothing wrong with the practice, arguing that it helps teenagers abstain from pre-marital sex and contracting HIV and Aids.
I tested 20 virgins who came to me'
The king's sister, Princess Thembi Ndlovu, said on Monday that virginity testing was not a violation of human rights because the girls were not forced to participate.
"A lot of girls approach us. On Saturday I tested 20 virgins who came to me," Ndlovu said.
She said the number of girls attending the ceremony had increased over the years.
"This shows that someone out there is listening to our pleas. If you abstain from sex you will not get sexually transmitted diseases. We want to create an Aids-free generation."
Lisa Vetten, spokesperson for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, said the practice was discriminatory because it focused only on women. She added that young men should be taught to respect teenage girls.
"The focus should be on young men. They must understand that they are not entitled to have sex with young girls," Vetten said.
Nombuso Shabalala, spokesperson for the Commission on Gender Equality, said they did not have a problem with the testing as long as it was done under hygienic conditions.
S'lindokuhle Mabaso, 22, who took part in the reed dance on Saturday, said she did not regret going for the virginity test. "I want to remain a virgin until I get married," she said.
was originally published on page 3 of The Star on September 14, 2004
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