Better Than "Silver Ring Thing"!

In case you were wondering how to tell who's a virgin and who isn't, the experts testifying in front of the South African Parliament a couple of years ago had a few tips:

1) Firm breasts

2) Smooth skin behind the knees

3) Tight ass and thighs

4) Erect nipples

5) Water "will not stick to her body ... only droplets"

Now, you may be wondering why the South African Parliament would care who's a virgin and who isn't. Well, it has to do with the annual "Reed Dance," where this past weekend, about 15,000 certified virgins, some as young as 10 (though legally they're supposed to be at least 16), carried riverbed reeds to the Royal Palace at Nongoma in northern KwaZula-Natal province where they danced bare-breasted for King Goodwill Zwelithini, confirming a pledge to remain virgins until marriage - all apparently in an attempt to prevent the spread of HIV, of which about one-quarter of the South African population is infected.

The festival took place Sept. 7-9.

Of course, as you might expect, the biggest problem with such a festival is fake virgins; hence the virginity tests administered by elders in each Zulu village.

"We have a problem of schools that just bus in girls to the festival who have not been tested. Some you don't even have to test them to see that they are not virgins because it is clear by looking at their bodies that they are not," said Khumbu Ntuli, an expert in virginity testing from Vryheid.

"When you buy a new sofa or a cushion that has never been sat on, you can tell the difference between a sofa that had always carried somebody and the new one," added Zulu-Ndlovu, the king's sister. "That's how you tell when you test."

Apparently, even the guidelines noted above aren't conclusive, nor even the physical exam, where the girls lie down on the ground and spread their legs for "ukuhlolwa kwezintombi" ("inspection of girls"), which a new law currently before Parliament is set to ban ... but it may not make much of a difference. Legend has it that if a non-virgin takes part in the ceremony, her reed will break during the dance, which breaking is considered highly embarrassing to the girl, her parents and pretty much everybody in attendance. (However, girls whose reeds do break have claimed that "the wind did it." Yeah, right!) Some girls have also collapsed during the event, and while some have said it's because they had "gone against the culture," others attributed it to heat prostration.

In 2005, the king proposed a plan for testing boys' virginity as well, but to date, no one's yet figured out how to do it reliably.

As one might expect, the festival is fairly popular, not only with the locals, but also with media from around the world ... and that's created a problem or two as well.

Although supposedly a "strict accreditation process" had been put into place back in '05 after pictures of naked and bare-breasted girls had been found posted on porn websites, this year, a couple of Italian tourists were detained for taking photos of the girls without the proper credentials. They were soon released with a warning.

But "real" media can get photo passes, though some areas are off-limits for photography.

"We don't want any cameras at the tent which will be used by the girls for changing clothes," said Mpumelelo Mnguni, chief director of the department of arts and culture. "We will also take action against those who put cameras below the maidens' legs when they take pictures. We want them to only take pictures of the body and face."

The girls parade bare-breasted wearing only izigege (a piece of cloth that only covers the front of their lower body).

Nhlanhla Mtaka, media director for the event, spoke out against unwelcome "sex perverts" who had caused organisers to impose strict access controls.

 "Zulu maidens are increasingly becoming targets of unscrupulous photographers and cameramen who take the pictures of maidens and flash them on Internet porn sites," he said.


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