Ukuthwala is 'unconstitutional'

Cultural analysts say the practice of ukuthwala continues despite South Africa’s legislation.

Cultural analysts say the practice of ukuthwala continues despite South Africa’s legislation. Picture: Stock.XCHNG.

CAPE TOWN - Cultural analysts say the practice of ukuthwala continues despite South Africa's progressive constitution.

The practice is once again in the spotlight following the conviction of Mvumeleni Jezile.

He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the trafficking and rape of an Eastern Cape teen during an arranged marriage.

He kidnapped a 14-year-old girl in 2010, forced her into marriage and raped and assaulted her.

He has since been granted leave to appeal.

Gender adviser for the United Nations Population Fund Sakhumzi Ntayiya told the Redi Tlhabi Show what the practice entails.

"This is abduction of young girls into marriage and forcing them and hoping that they will say yes to this marriage. In many cases it is someone who is not known to the girl."

He says there is a lot of secrecy around ukuthwala.

"In the reported cases of ukuthwala, it would be a guy who is much older than the girl who is forced into this practice. However, most cases of ukuthwala are under-reported. We know there's a lot of secrecy around these so-called cultural practices."

He says those who practice ukuthwala are breaking the law.

"The Constitution of South Africa is quite clear and upholds human rights. The country is quite clear in terms of the age of sexual consent as well as other aspects. So it is really a violation of human rights and a violation of the legislation of the country."

Meanwhile, independent researcher and analyst in gender politics and cultures issues Nomboniso Gasa says the Constitution allows cultural practices, but there are certain provisions.

"The Constitution states that the practice of any cultural practices or customary practice should not in any way impair the dignity of the other person or harm the other person in any way.

"It is very clear that it is unconstitutional."

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has encouraged victims of ukuthwala to lay criminal charges so that the perpetrators can be brought to book.