chapter  3
Women are women or how to please your husband: initiation ceremonies and the politics of 'tradition' in Southern Africa
Pages 30

In April 1995 two South African magazines reported the revival of the centuries-old custom of testing girls for virginity in KwaZulu not far from Durban. According to the reports young girls dressed in 'traditional' clothing flocked to the virginity inspections where they were asked 'to lie on their backs on grass mats with their knees bent, baring their genitals', in order to obtain one of the highly prized virginity certificates. Ukuhlolwa, the Zulu term for virginity testing, is said to be 'the only solution to teenage pregnancy', since as one of the inspectors explained, 'girls cannot indulge in sex if they know they will be checked regularly'. 1 This evocation of a 'tradition' of women's chastity happens in a country with one of the highest rape figures in the world, and in a province where 15 per cent of all rapes reported to the police alone happen on average every 84 seconds (Leclerc-Madlala: 1995: 16). This 'old tradition' is revived at a time when 'jackrolling', a 'new tradition' of abducting young women at gunpoint from the sides of their boyfriends and raping, mistreating and sometimes killing them is on the rise in South Africa's townships.2