Barbaric ‘culture’ must be scrapped

2010-12-01 08:21

A popular investigative television show recently showed how girls in the Eastern Cape were still being exploited in the wonderful name of ­culture and tradition. It was sad for anyone who dared to watch.

The show was about a very old and failed tradition called Ukuthwala. Ukuthwala is a Xhosa word that means “to take”. Apparently, in the past Xhosa males would see a girl in the village and, if said male wanted to make a woman out of that girl, he would go and negotiate with her about the possibility of such a union.

Lately, boys are apparently no longer following how it used to be done as they violently force girls to live with them, with or without their consent.

I am no expert on this tradition. I come from Limpopo, where we are encouraged to respect girls and talk nicely to them if we see a potential relationship. But I live in the province where this barbaric ­practice is still taking place, and it is for this reason that I feel I need to call it ­pathetic and outdated. If you watched the TV show, you would have seen how young girls were being ­exploited and denied their constitutional right to choice.

I am talking about kids as young as 12 being poached by some barbaric types.

These children are supposed to be at school learning how they can be independent and become better people, but they?are?forced?into illegal marriages, most of the time with the consent of their parents, who care about nothing other than what they get in return – a cow or two.

What the hell happened to flirting with your subject before you nicely pounced (with words) and made her blush like the word was going out of fashion? Is that so hard, ­lazy brothers? Is it really too difficult to construct a meaningful sentence in the hope of making a young woman your girlfriend? My biggest gripe is with those who allow this madness to happen. What kind of parent allows their children to be taken and stripped of their innocence in such a violent, barbaric and illegal way? These unfortunate mothers and?fathers?hide?behind?culture?and?tradition.

I don’t care how it used to be practised in the past. If it’s a failed tradition today, then it’s time to call it quits so that it has no place in tomorrow. And here the biggest problem is that this tradition (I actually don’t want to use that name) is practised in the country’s backwaters, which people usually do not care about.

The minister of education is supposed to be playing a role here by being in contact with her people on the ground about such issues. Principals and teachers are supposed to put their feet down and say “hell no” to a 12-year-old Grade Six learner who is “married” to some hot-head lazy brother.

These people must be able to come to the rescue of such a victim.

The elderly are also to blame if they give the perpetrators a safe haven so they can keep going with this barbaric and outdated practice that encourages laziness and disrespects our girls.

Like the yearly butchering of our boys in some scary bushes, this is a sick tradition that unfortunately our comfortable politicians really don’t care about as long as their children are safe. Our politicians should feel ashamed and act swiftly if they want to be respected by the coming generations. Do they want to be remembered for being a careless lot? Remember that a society that doesn’t respect its children is not worthy of ­respect itself.

Musekwa is a freelance journalist and is based in Grahamstown

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