Following the release of the State Response and Protection of girls from being victims of ukuthwala, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has been inundated with engagements with various stakeholders on the matter. Some communities are beginning to engage directly with the commission.
On the 30th of November the CGE received a complaint from an anonymous caller citing that a 14 year old child in KwaMthandeni, outside kwaMaphumulo in KwaZulu-Natal, was due to marry a man above the age of 40 on the 16th of December 2012. The girl was a replacement for her 20 year old sister who had been chosen in the church by this man. Upon finding that she is pregnant by another man, the sister ran off, hence the suitor and the family agreed that the younger sister should take her place.
The CGE led a team of South African Police Service's (SAPS) FCS unit and the Social Workers to verify the story, locate the child and engage with the family and the suitor to ensure that the marriage is called off. The family and suitor confirmed that the man had paid R29 500 towards ilobolo and wanted either his money back or another girl.
Although the suitor intimated that he does not know the girl, rituals had been done and all was set for the wedding day. The girl's family said they were not very keen to marry the child off but religious leaders from their church put pressure on them. The girl's mother said as a woman, she did not have much say in the matter.
In terms of both the Sexual Offences Act and the Children's Act, the CGE pointed out to both the parents and the suitor that should this marriage proceed, they would be arrested and prosecuted. Due to the seriousness of the matter, the Department of Social Welfare has since removed the child from her home until such time that a Social Worker in charge of the case has ascertained the safety of the child.
Both Department of Social Welfare and SAPS will ensure that the child receives necessary counselling and that no further criminal acts ensue as a result. The CGE will monitor progress on this case and engage with both traditional and religious leaders to raise awareness and stamp out the practices of ukuthwala and underage marriages.
Cell: 083 579 3306
Issued by: Commission for Gender Equality
3 Dec 2012