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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

Human Rights Violations: Probing the Cultural Practice of Ukuthwala in Kwazulu-Natal Province, South Africa


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Matshidze, Pfarelo; Lee, Kugara Stewart ;Decide, Mdhluli Tsetselelani

Journal Article

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Gender & Behaviour

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

Matshidze et al.’s 2017 paper explores the African cultural practice of ukuthwala. This human rights violation concerns “girl-child abduction in the name of a cultural practice” (p. 9028). After reviewing the practice in detail as Matshidze et al. explain it, ukuthwala would appear to clearly constitute both child marriage and human trafficking. The paper’s coauthors suggest that “religious resilience” is to blame for the persistence of this abuse. Matshidze et al. make use of multiple research methods to examine ukuthwala, relying heavily on case studies and conversations with knowledge holders along with legal contextualization to issue policy recommendations as to how to limit the practice. Central to these include mandatory reporting responsibilities to “further buttress” existing laws (p. 9038).

Article Abstract (If Available):

The purpose of thisarticle is to critically examine girl-child abduction in the name of a cultural practice, ukuthwala, in the 21st century. The article puts under spotlight the unadulterated ancient cultural practice of ukuthwala vis-à-vis the distorted and devilish living customary law that leads to abduction andgirl-childabuse; sexual exploitation, rape and child labour.In antiquity, African cultural practices (especially the customary marriage of ukuthwala) were designed and practiced in harmony due to the era they were in, hence it is very difficult for some Africans to abandon. It is because of this religious resilience of the cultural practice that numerous girls' rights have been violated. Literature review, black-letter law, face-to-face interviews and case studies formed the basis of the research methodology employed.A human rights based approach and an African theory of study were adopted to give an objective contemporary view to this phenomenon.In making recommendations to this complex phenomenon, the researchers were guided by existing laws and the sentiments of Knowledge Holders (KH) to propose a multi-dimensional holistic approach to conscientise those who still practice the custom. Recommendations for policy and further research are suggested.

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