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Johannesburg - A task team has been set up in KwaZulu-Natal to investigate the extent and harmful effects of “ukuthwala” - a practice involving the abduction and forced marriage of girls, the provincial government said on Wednesday.
Government spokesperson Cyril Madlala said the team was formed following concerns by the Commission of Gender Equality (CGE) that the government and the police were not recording ukuthwala statistics.
The commission found that the departments of health, social development, co-operative governance and traditional affairs and the National Prosecuting Authority also had no records of the practice.
In talks on Wednesday between the KwaZulu-Natal executive council and the CGE, Premier Zweli Mkhize promised to address the issue.
“He re-affirmed the government's commitment to working with the CGE and all other stakeholders to facilitate the protection of human rights, including those of women that were always protected traditionally,” said Madlala.
Officials said they knew the problem was an escalating one.
“The practice is prevalent in parts of the province and there has been an increase in recent years of incidents of criminal abductions, some involving schoolgirls,” he said.
The CGE welcomed the government's efforts, but called for perpetrators to be brought to book.
The police and the KwaZulu-Natal prosecuting authority had to ensure reported cases were investigated and prosecuted, said CGE spokesperson Janine Hicks. She said more awareness programmes were also needed.
The CGE said it was concerned that there was no specific legislation dealing with ukuthwala, and that the law dealt only with cases of assault, kidnap and rape. - Sapa