South Africa 11.6.2015 09:00 am

Ukuthwala still rife in KZN

FILE PICTURE: Forced to marry a stranger. A Xhosa tradition, ukuthwala, in the Eastern Cape force girls as young as 13 to get married to older men.(Photo by Gallo Images/Drum)

FILE PICTURE: Forced to marry a stranger. A Xhosa tradition, ukuthwala, in the Eastern Cape force girls as young as 13 to get married to older men.(Photo by Gallo Images/Drum)

As KwaZulu-Natal struggles to contain its HIV infection rate – the highest in the country – the provincial social development department said yesterday that ukuthwala – a practice in which underage girls are forced to marry older men – was still widespread and was exposing girls to HIV.

“The problem is that most people in the province, particularly in rural areas, are not aware it is a crime to engage in ukuthwala,” departmental spokesperson Ncumisa Fandesi said.

“In fact, they see it as part of preserving their culture.”

This week the department opened a rape case after a 15-year-old girl from Bulwer in the Midlands was impregnated by a 30-year-old man after he paid R1 500 lobola to her family.

After paying for the girl, who is in Grade 10, the man demanded she quit school as he wanted to marry her.

“After we heard about the issue we immediately dispatched social workers who removed the girl and placed her in a place of safety,” Fandesi said.

The social workers had a hard time convincing the child’s granny, who had given the marriage her blessing, that it was illegal as the girl was under age.

“She is an elderly person who had spent her entire life in rural areas, and for her, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the marriage,” Fandesi said.

Social development MEC Weziwe Thusi said it was unacceptable that despite several campaigns run by the department, young girls were still being abused by those claiming to be practising their culture.

“We are following this case with keen interest and we will not rest until it is concluded.

“A 15-year-old is a child who should be in school getting an education not setting up a home with grown man,” she said.

Last year an 18-year-old Pietermaritzburg pupil committed suicide after she was forced to marry a 63-year-old man.

 

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