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Mickey Meji
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Does custom, religion and tradition make crime right?

06 June 2014, 12:32

Cases of child abuse and murder continue to plague the country as Child Protection Week kicked off. Noticeably though among the cases that are recorded and spoken about nothing is ever said or written about traditions that cause permanent harm and are highly abusive of children's rights.

I was shocked a couple weeks ago to learn that the traditional practice ukuthwala (the custom where a girl is abducted and forced to stay with a man in the name of marriage) is still taking place in the Eastern Cape, but what I found to be more outrageous was the fact that this has become a social-norm and people in this society where this happens see nothing wrong with this tradition as “it is good for the girl” more like an achievement. A young woman  I spoke to who was arrested for being an aclomplice felt that she did nothing wrong actually she felt that the girl and her aunt who assisted in laying charges werewasting an oppoturnity  Really how is this any good to the girls? They get abducted and then forced to have sex and this is happening to girls as young as 14yrs.

Girls married at a young age often have mental anguish, suffer health problems due to early pregnancies, are at high risk 0of contracting HIVand other transmitted infections and are less likely to get an education.  Most of them come from poorly educated families, child headed homes and rural areas where girls cannot oppose the cultural norms of the family and community.

“The Charter on the Rights of the Child, for example, has clear provisions on harmful practices against the child.  It’s clear the provisions of the charter, that cultural or religious or whatever should not be an excuse and the state must take measures to curb this. People use all sorts of excuses to perpetuate what they are doing but it’s not an excuse as far as child abuse is concerned. Should we just turn a blind eye while our girl’s futures are destroyed because it’s custom? Does a crime seize to be such because custom, religion and tradition permits it? I say NO! 

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