Durban - This year, nine girls from a school in Loskop, Estcourt, have been abducted with the intention of forcing them into early marriages.
This was heard this week at a meeting held to discuss ukuthwala (practice of abducting girls and forcing them into marriage) and abuse against women.
The meeting, held with residents of Loskop, was convened by members of the provincial legislature’s quality of life portfolio committee.
The girls kidnapped from the school were between the ages of 13 and 17.
One of them returned home after her parents intervened, and another after being abused.
Xoli Msimanga, director of the Loskop-based NGO Thembalethu Care Organisation, which combats social ills, said: “Ukuthwala is still happening in this area although it is no longer on a similar scale as before.
“Some parents still believe that the only thing a girl should do is get married. If a girl gets to her 20s and no one has proposed to her, she is made to feel like she is nothing and that puts her under more pressure.”
Msimanga said the NGO took steps to educate parents about the rights and feelings of their children, and that strategy was paying off, as one of the abducted girls was rescued after her mother opened a criminal case with the police.
“When her daughter was abducted, she went to the police and her daughter was brought back. Fortunately, the girl was not abused. We have since helped her to get a protection order.
“When girls are abducted they are forced to marry men older than them; some of these men are unemployed.
“These girls are children and all of a sudden they are expected to run a marriage and fall pregnant.”
The teenager who was rescued said she was 17 when she was abducted by a man she believed was in his 30s.
“He was harassing me for some time. One day I was walking home and a car drove in front of me and I was bundled inside.
“They drove away playing loud music so people could not hear me scream, and went to a mountain where they kept me until midnight.
“At midnight they moved me to a room at his home where I was placed under the guard of many people who pleaded with me to agree to marry the guy. I cried all night until the police came with my mother to get me,” she said. Her mother said the abduction was carried out in front of other community members, who did nothing to help.
“Only one woman came to tell me afterwards about who had taken my daughter; she had been powerless to help at that moment,” she said.
“I could not sleep at night; family members refused to help. I walked to the police station and went with the police to where my daughter was kept.
“She was guarded by 20 men.”
Phumzile Mbatha Cele, the chairperson of the quality of life committee, said ukuthwala was a serious problem.
“Children as young as 11 are being abducted. About seven parents who were at the meeting detailed their own and their children’s trauma.
“One of our most serious concerns is that they complained that the police in Loskop did not take these cases seriously,” Mbatha Cele said.