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Teenager escapes ukuthwala

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

A teenager tells how her family’s  attempt to force her to marry an older man has left her scared and traumatised.

Ukuthwala, the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, with or without the consent of their parents, is still a sad reality in parts of South Africa.

A teenager from a rural Eastern Cape village was recently abducted twice by a man 10 years her senior, who tried to force her to marry him.

Asavela Moyaphi* (18) has been left traumatised. She explained that she is constantly on her guard and feels rejected by her family, who now shun her because of her refusal to marry the widower.

Fortunately, after her second abduction by the same man, she was rescued by the Hawks.

The teenager said she was locked up, beaten and raped and when she managed to escape, her parents sent her back to the man’s house. She again escaped, only to be abducted again.

“When they abducted me again, I managed to inform my dance instructor and a friend. After two days, the police came and asked me if I wanted to be there. I said no and they took me to a place of safety,” she said.

Ukuthwala - a grim reality

Child marriages are still a reality in the rural parts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The Khula Children’s Rights Organisation is at the forefront of rescuing children who are forced into marriage.

Working with the Hawks, the Department of Social Development, the House of Traditional Leaders and community activists, the non-profit organisation intervenes on behalf of children forced into marriage, said its director Petros Majola. Rescued children are sent to places of safety, where they receive counselling.

Majola said the prevalence of child marriages is still alarmingly high. “In one week, we along with the Hawks – rescued three young girls,” he said.

Ukuthwala is in violation of children’s rights and also the right to human dignity, the right to security and sexual reproductive rights.

* Not her real name.

Children forced into marriage can contact the police at 10 111 or Majola at 083 371 1667.