Proposal to outlaw ukuthwala, prosecute parents forcing girls to wed

2014-09-03 09:16

The South African Law Reform Commission has, in a discussion paper, proposed a law to criminalise forced marriage.

Parents and community members who “aid and abet” a marriage or consent to ukuthwala could face prosecution if the wife-to-be has not consented, The Times reported today.

Ukuthwala is a practice where girls are abducted and forced into marriage, often with the consent of their parents.

Research cited in the paper found that girls were often left with no choice but to marry, no matter how unhappy they might be.

It found that families desperate for money were happy to accept the prospective husband’s lobolo (bride price) and might even “orchestrate” forced marriages.

Girls who were married at an early age were forced to leave school and could be subjected to violent sexual abuse.

“The Constitution is very clear that equality trumps culture, custom and religion,” Lisa Vetten, a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social Economic Research at the University of the Witwatersrand, was quoted as saying.

“Forced marriage is a violation of the right to equality.”

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