Criminalising ukuthwala: Who will act against the perpetrators?

Less than a month before her 13th birthday, Mbali* and her cousin were ambushed by a group of young men as the two girls were coming out of a relative’s house. One of them, who was armed with a knife, a bottle and a rock, grabbed Mbali and said, “Today, I’m taking you, I’m taking you to my house.”

Were it not for the girls’ neighbour who heard their terrified screams and confronted their attackers, giving the girls an opportunity to escape, Mbali would have been the victim of a “culture” gone terribly, terribly wrong.

The definition of ukuthwala and the “proper” way in which it should be practised differs depending on who you’re talking to. Some define it as the abduction of a girl or young woman by a man and his peers with the intention of coercing her parents to consent to her marriage.

Others define it as the marriage of a girl or a young woman without her consent, but with the consent of her parents. In this instance, her parents will send her on an errand, having prearranged with the man’s family where they will capture her. Then there’s the ukuthwala with a romantic twist, an elopement of sorts, where a young couple who fear that the woman’s parents will not consent to their union, decide on ukuthwala as a means to compel her parents to agree to their marriage. In the first two instances, the “bride” is caught off guard and has not consented to the marriage. In the third instance she is a willing participant in the thwala.

Read more at the M&G.

Image – Melanie Hamman-Doucakis