Hundreds of virgins from various parts of the Eastern Cape have converged at the Bhaziya Traditional Council outside Mthatha to celebrate the annual Inkciyo custom.

This cultural practice is aimed at promoting pureness among young girls with the aim of preventing teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted illnesses and upholding moral values through the testing of their virginity.

Young girls in the province face numerous challenges like forced marriages as well as a myth that having sex with a virgin cures HIV/AIDS.

The young girls believe this custom keeps them safe in society.

“It’s not only about where you come from, but it teaches you morals and how you are supposed to conduct yourself and gives you pride. We are always encouraged to focus on ourselves because those who are against this custom do not want young women to succeed,” say some young girls.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane says they want their traditions to be a bulwark against moral degeneration.

“We had to perform the ritual early this morning to call upon all the ancestors to protect these girls and also to encourage our women. We condemn with the strongest possible terms the notion that if you have sexual intercourse with a young girl then it will cure Aids. All those people are criminals that need to be dealt with. This ceremony, therefore, encourages us all to work together to make sure the dignity of an African is restored,” says Chief Nonkonyane.