Strong disunity characterises ukuthwala debate

The Commission for Gender Equality says the practice should be completely eradicated.

FILE: A fiery debate on cultural rights versus human rights has characterised a debate on the practice of ukuthwala. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - A fiery debate on cultural rights versus human rights characterised the launch of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities ( CRL Rights Commission)'s report on the practice of ukuthwala.

The commission says it supports the traditional practice which is defined as marriage by capture.

Delegates, including traditional leaders, are gathered in Sandton for the launch of a research report on the abductions.

The commission says it's committed to doing away with distorted forms of ukuthwala which now see children kidnapped, raped and married.

Commission chair Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva says abolishing the custom is not an option.

"You can't abolish something that was put there to help facilitate the process of negotiations in the lobola business. This is closing the door on people who want to practice their culture."

However, gender activists say the act is a complete violation of the rights of women and children.

The Commission for Gender Equality says the practice should be completely eradicated as it causes more harm than good.

Chairperson Mfanozelwe Shozi says, "Rights to equality, privacy and freedom takes precedence over cultural rights and should be abolished."

The commission says it's concerned about the victimisation of rural women and children who are falling victim to violent and distorted forms of the practice.

The cultural practice has seen a recent trend of girls as young as 12 being kidnapped and married.