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Ukuthwala: Robbing young girls of childhood

Written by Ursula Graaff and www.justice.gov.za
Ukuthwala is the inhumane practice by individuals or groups of men of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage.

Apart from violating a young girl’s basic human rights, this illegal practice can also have a negative impact on a young girl’s life and future.

She could contract HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, fall pregnant or die during child birth due to complications. She would be forced to leave school, impacting her chances of a better future. Ukuthwala ultimately robs her of her childhood as she is forced into motherhood and being a wife at an early age.

The law protects victims of Ukuthwala through the:

  • Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998, which among other things stipulates that you have to be 18 to be legally married.
  • Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013, which among other things prohibits forced marriages.
  • Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007:

Rape: If a man has sex with a girl under 12, it is regarded as rape, as she is too young to consent. If she is between the ages of 12 and 16, he is guilty of statutory rape, whether she agreed to it or not.

Sexual assault: Touching a girl anywhere on her body forcefully and without her permission.

Sexual exploitation: When a person pays another person for sexual favours, therefore lobola cannot be accepted for a girl child to be married.

Where to report Ukuthwala incidents:

  • Nearest police station
  • Teacher
  • Social worker
  • Community leader
  • Church leader
  • Any other person that you trust
  • Department of Justice.
What can the community do to end Ukuthwala?

To play a meaningful role in combating Ukuthwala, communities can:

  • Report violations and monitor law enforcement processes
  • Provide life skills education for men to find wives legally
  • Help child orphans to ensure that they are not vulnerable to male predators and relatives looking to avoid their responsibility or to cash in on lobolo.

For more information contact: Directorate: Gender on 012 315 1670 / 012 315 1111 or www.justice.gov.za