No data kept on forced marriage of girls

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KwaZulu-Natal - KwaZulu-Natal government departments have no data on ukuthwala, a practice involving the abduction and forced marriage of girls, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said on Friday.

“It is difficult to pinpoint what is happening because no department has kept statistics on ukuthwala,” CGE chairman Mfanozelwe Shozi said.

The CGE held a dialogue on ukuthwala in Durban and it emerged there was no specific legislation dealing with ukuthwala, because the law only dealt with cases of assault, kidnapping, and rape.

The practice of ukuthwala occurs mainly in the Bergville and Umzimkhulu areas.

KwaZulu-Natal CGE legal officer Taryn Powys, who presented her findings on an investigation on ukuthwala, said the provincial departments of health, social development, and co-operative governance and traditional affairs, had failed to provide data on the practice.

The National Prosecuting Authority and the police also did not have statistics. The education department and the premier's office had programmes which dealt with ukuthwala.

Traditional leader Inkosi Themba Mavundla said the practice was acceptable culturally, but had been tainted by criminal acts.

Mavundla said ukuthwala happened when a girl who had come of age agreed with her boyfriend to be abducted, so her family would allow them to get married. This happened mainly where the girl's parents did not approve of her boyfriend. Mavundla noted that a girl was never forced to marry a man she did not want.

“As South Africans we need to understand that we are a multi-cultural society. Democracy does not mean we must forget our identity.”

Mavundla said abducting and forcing a girl to marry was a criminal act, but not ukuthwala.

He said parents also perpetuated this criminal act.

“Money is causing a lot of problems, because parents are selling their children for cows,” Mavundla said.

Powys said the GCE was concerned by the practise, which was condoned by some as part of a “culture”.

“These are criminal acts. We need to come together and protect our children,” she said. - Sapa


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