Perceptions and attitudes of secondary school students in KwaZulu Natal towards virginity testing
This study describes the prevalence of virginity testing (VT) amongst rural secondary school students in KwaZulu- Natal (KZN), compares the attitudes of students of both sexes to VT, the differences in attitudes between girls who would/would not undergo such testing, and explores the relationship between risky sexual behaviour and girls who underwent virginity testing. A cross sectional descriptive study was undertaken with stratified random sampling of 10 secondary schools in Ugu District, KZN. Of 846 isiZulu-speaking students whose mean age was 16.1 years (SD 2.4), 492 (58.2%) were girls, of whom 286 (58.1%) had undergone VT and, in total 347 (70.5%) girls supported VT. Girls whose mothers had less formal education were more likely to have participated in VT (P-0.03) with fewer older girls participating (P=0.0003). More girls than boys considered VT to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (P=0.02), and to be empowering (P<0.005), but VT received support from both sexes as a traditional cultural practice. Participation in VT failed to prevent sexual intercourse and sexually transmitted diseases or to improve rates of condom use amongst those who were sexually active. South Africa’s Bill of Rights supports gender equity. At community level VT has support despite its conflicting relationship with human rights, and questionable impact on preventing HIV/AIDS.
Keywords: virginity testing; rural secondary school students; gender equity
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