Ukuthwala turns ugly

2012-11-17 00:00

TWENTY-TWO girls in the Bergville district have been victims of the practice of ukuthwala.

This was revealed by Nomusa Kunene, who was discussing the findings presented by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on the subject of ukuthwala.

The Commission for Gender Equality hosted a debate yesterday in Durban and presented their findings after conducting an investigation into the practice, and how the various government departments reacted to the problem.

Kunene said she and those working in the Office for the Rights of the Child, under the Premier’s Office, had tried to discourage the practice of ukuthwala after discovering that there were certain hotspots.

Kunene said she had heard of one case where a girl was chained to a tree so she could not run away from her prospective husband. She was only 13. The Education Department has made some efforts to educate pupils about their rights and to discourage boys from committing this crime.

Kunene said the problem was not only related to cultural groups, but also to certain religious groups which were promoting early marriage to prevent HIV.

Some parents saw their daughters as “cash cows”and thought they could exchange a young daughter for some cows or money.

“They do not realise their daughter has human rights,” said Kunene.

Taryn Powys who conducted the research, said: “We should not confuse the traditional practice of ukuthwala with the criminal activities being perpetrated by young men and the parents of young girls who force them to marry.

“These girls are children and not sexually mature enough to become wives, and they are not in a romantic relationship with the boys who abduct them. This is a crime, pure and simple.”

One of the main problems identified by the CGE was that there was no specific way of identifying ukuthwala from other sexual crimes, and usually the crimes were listed as rape and kidnapping.

Another problem was the reluctance of victims and their families to come forward and report the cases. Kunene said she was horrified to learn that mothers were encouraging their daughters to accept this fate.

Nkosi Themba Mavundla of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) said the problem had arisen from general moral degeneration and also from the fact that people did not respect their traditions any more.

He said people were lusting after money and they were not content to listen to their elders.

The CGE has prepared a draft document of recommendations. The draft will be completed soon and circulated to all state departments to consider how they can implement the measures.

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