Girl, 14, rescued from forced marriage

Eastern Cape police have rescued a 14-year-old girl from being forced into a marriage allegedly arranged by her mother and uncles. The practice is known as ukuthwala.

The victim, who cannot be named as she is underage, was allegedly forced into an illegal union with a 26-year-old mineworker from KuMvezo village. The family is alleged to have received seven cattle as compensation or lobola. She was rescued on Christmas Eve.

It is understood that her family and that of the man’s had arranged the marriage without her knowledge. She was sent to live with the man at his homestead.

Khula Development Project director Petros Majola said the girl was rescued and is in a place of safety.

“I am shocked that people continue with ukuthwala, forcing mostly young girls into these arranged marriages. We call on the justice department to give harsher sentences to those who are found to have been involved in these crimes,” said Majola.

Hawks provincial spokeswoman Captain Anelisa Feni confirmed the victim was now in safe hands.

“We can confirm that the Hawks have rescued the 14-year-old victim and she’s in a place of safety.

“No arrest has been made yet,” said Feni.

Majola said the victim stayed with her “in-laws” for three days before managing to escape.

“It is alleged that seven cattle were paid for lobola. After three days, she escaped and went to Tyothi village where her mother is. Here she was allegedly told to go back to her husband’s home so that her family is not embarrassed. She was returned but escaped again. The young victim could not handle the trauma and we were alerted to her plight,” said Majola.

Majola said they were calling on everyone to report crimes committed against women and children, urging people to also use social media to alert authorities. “Do not allow anyone to force you to marry someone if you are underage, you do not know this person and you feel that you are being sold to this person,” said Majola.

Two weeks ago Khula, together with the police’s organised crime unit, distributed pamphlets to motorists along the N2 near Port Elizabeth to educate people about ukuthwala.

“This is just some of many projects we are doing to make sure that people are aware of ukuthwala and child trafficking,” he said. — bonganif@dispatch.co.za

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