Parents promoting ukuthwala by ‘selling their children for cows’

2012-11-16 14:00

A KwaZulu-Natal traditional leader has revealed that parents played a part in perpetuating the controversial practice of abducting a girl for marriage, ukuthwala.

“Money is causing a lot of problems, because parents are selling their children for cows,” Inkosi Themba Mavundla said at a dialogue hosted by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) in Durban today.

Mavundla said while the practice was acceptable culturally, it had been tainted by criminal acts.

He explained that ukuthwala happened when a girl who had come of age agreed with her boyfriend to be abducted, so her family would allow them to get married.

This happened mainly where the girl’s parents did not approve of her boyfriend.

Mavundla noted that a girl was never forced to marry a man she did not want.

“As South Africans we need to understand that we are a multi-cultural society. Democracy does not mean we must forget our identity.”

Mavundla said abducting and forcing a girl to marry was a criminal act, but not ukuthwala.

Meanwhile, the commission learned that KZN government departments had no data on ukuthwala.

“It is difficult to pinpoint what is happening because no department has kept statistics on ukuthwala,” CGE chairman Mfanozelwe Shozi said.

KwaZulu-Natal CGE legal officer Taryn Powys, who presented her findings on an investigation on ukuthwala, said the provincial departments of health, social development, and co-operative governance and traditional affairs, had failed to provide data on the practice.

The National Prosecuting Authority and the police also did not have statistics.

It also emerged there was no specific legislation dealing with ukuthwala, because the law only dealt with cases of assault, kidnapping, and rape.

The practice of ukuthwala occurs mainly in the Bergville and Umzimkhulu areas.

Powys said the GCE was concerned by the practice, which was condoned by some as part of a “culture”.

“These are criminal acts. We need to come together and protect our children,” she said.

The education department and the premier’s office had programmes which dealt with ukuthwala.

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