Uganda’s Largest Kingdom Offers Televisions, Appliances, Cash to Women Who Remain Virgins Until Marriage to Help Curb HIV
Buganda, the largest of Uganda's four kingdoms, will offer women who remain virgins until marriage television sets, electrical appliances or money as part of an effort to curb the spread of HIV, the Sunday Telegraph/National Post reports. A woman's husband will be responsible for determining her sexual status on their wedding night and reporting it to a panel of sengas -- female mentors -- to be eligible for the reward. "African tradition" is supposed to prevent young men from falsely trying to win incentives, according to Health Minister Robert Sebunya, who added that he is "convinced that our young people are fair-minded and will enter into the spirit of the program." Ugandan women who remained virgins until marriage were traditionally offered a goat as an incentive to avoid sex.
The updating of the mberera incentives, or "purity" customs, is part of an attempt to expand the role of a recently established morality committee. However, many young Ugandans last week objected to the program and called for a "more contemporary policy" of HIV/AIDS prevention. Sebunya defended the program, saying, "So many of our young people have died or are dying. I am certain that this will become a weapon in the fight against HIV and AIDS, so we must try it." He noted that officials realized that a goat was "perhaps no longer enough of an incentive for young people today" and said that the government will attempt to "come up with rewards that will tempt them to preserve the good morals of the kingdom." An estimated 1.8 million of Uganda's 23 million people have HIV/AIDS, and average life expectancy in the nation is expected to drop to 35 years over the next 10 years (Flanagan, Sunday Telegraph/National Post, 2/12).