Protect, promote ukuthwala - commission

Johannesburg - The practice of ukuthwala must be protected, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities said on Thursday.

"We unashamedly promote ukuthwala," chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said in Johannesburg during a briefing on the commission's latest report on ukuthwala.

"We will protect ukuthwala."

She said there was a clear distinction between ukuthwala and the unlawful abduction of young virgins by older men for their own selfish needs.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said ukuthwala occurred between two consenting adults involved in a relationship who faced difficulty being together because of collapsed lobola negotiations between their families.

The couple would agree on staging the woman's abduction, contact her family and inform them of her whereabouts, and call for the negotiations to continue.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the practice was being abused and tarnished by "criminals and paedophiles".

Abolishing the practice meant dissolving culture.

"We don't want to abolish anything but we want the criminals arrested," she said.

The misinterpretation of ukuthwala made it "seem like this was a mad cultural practice", Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA secretary general Nkosi Xolile Ndevu, who also backed the practice, said the failure to address such issues was because people were undecided about whether to follow modern or traditional ways.

Among those at the briefing were traditional leaders, legal officials, and children's rights activists.

Ndevu said they wanted traditional misdemeanours to be dealt with by traditional courts.

He called for traditional leaders to be excluded from current legal system procedures and instead be given powers to address traditional matters on their own.

Traditional leaders in rural areas had systems which allowed victims to be compensated or benefit from punishment given to the offenders, Ndevu said.

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