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Johannesburg - Justice Minister Jeff Radebe on Friday welcomed the first conviction of a man linked to the ukuthwala practice in the Western Cape.
“The Constitution states that a child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child,” Radebe said in a statement.
“We believe that the sentencing will send a strong message to those who are still practising ukuthwala, against traditional practices and the law.”
The practice, which is associated with some African traditions, involves the abduction of women and under-aged girls and leads to forced marriage.
On Thursday, Wynberg Regional Court Magistrate Daleen Greyvensteyn 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.
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 November, 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 Ä 18
under South African law.
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.
Radebe encouraged victims of ukuthwala to lay charges of kidnapping, rape, and trafficking so that the perpetrators could face the law.
He further urged them to apply for a protection order under the Domestic Violence Act against family members involved in the abductions. - Sapa