Johannesburg - The Sonke Gender Justice group on Friday welcomed the first conviction linked to ukuthwala in the Western Cape.
The practice, which is associated with some African traditions, involves the kidnapping of women and under-aged girls, and leads to forced marriage.
Sonke's spokesman Desmond Lesejane said it had taken a while for the country to be decisive about the practice.
“People have been hiding behind culture but we are grateful that the country is moving from this,” said Lesejane.
He called for action against families who allowed their children to be victims of ukuthwala.
“There is no excuse for it… not tradition, not poverty. It is an inhumane practice,” he said.
On Thursday, the Wynberg Regional Court sentenced Mvumeleni Jezile, 32, to 22 years behind bars, the Cape Argus reported.
He kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in 2010 and forcefully married, raped and assaulted her.
The paper reported that Jezile was found guilty of trafficking, three counts of rape and two counts of assault.
His victim said she was kidnapped from her home in Ngcobo, Eastern Cape and forced by her grandmother to marry Jezile.
She escaped from him and returned home but her family forced her to return to him.
She told the court that Jezile had assaulted her when she refused to have sex with him.
In sentencing, Magistrate Daleen Greyvensteyn said: “He testified that he followed the teaching of a religious leader to get married before having a relationship with a woman.
“However, he has since been in a relationship with a woman for a year and they have a four-month old baby together,” Greyvensteyn was quoted as saying.
In November, the KwaZulu-Natal traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube signed a pledge denouncing the practice of ukuthwala.
It was also signed by Commission for Gender Equality chairman Mfanozelwe Shozi, provincial house of traditional leaders chairman Inkosi Chiliza and KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches chairman Bishop Mike Vorster.
They agreed that the practice should take place only if both parties to it consented, and the woman was of marrying age under South African law - which was 18.
During the pledge-signing, it was announced that the National Prosecuting Authority would also charge the parents of under-aged girls who agreed to their children being forcefully married. - Sapa