Among the very first posts I have published on my blog was the one about the legal marriage age in Malawi. Today I found a similar article on BBC Africa.
The article starts with a story about Nolizwi Sinama, a 14 year old girl who was forced by her aunt to marry a 42 year old man. Nolizwi got pregnant a month after she was abducted. "They stole my innocence and my childhood." Her family threatened her with disgrace if she dared to leave her husband. She finally got the courage and left him upon discovering that he is HIV positive.
Another sad story is of 15 year old Nangamso Gezana who was also abducted and lived with her new husband for a month in a shack. “I was like a slave, cooking and cleaning for a man I did not even want. A man who did bad things to me and would not stop even when I cried.” One day when her husband was at work she just walked out leaving all of her belongings behind.
Nolizwi and Nangamso now live in Palmerton Children’s Care Center that used to care only for the orphaned children. Now out of 100 children who live there 12 are the victims of abduction.
The practice of abducting young girls for an early marriage is a common thing among Xhosa people in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. It is called ukuthwalwa. Prince Xhanti Sigcawu defends the custom, “Ukuthwalwa like all our other customs was and remains an important part of who we are as people.”
But not all of the people there think the same. Chief Pathekile Holomisa of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa says that ukuthawalwa should be discouraged. “It has been corrupted by greed for material purposes. It has no place in today's society.” But in the rural areas the practice is still strong. It is hard for the police to make any arrests as the people protect their own.
I cannot even begin to imagine what these young girls feel when they are abducted. Some of them being as young as 11! I still played with my dolls at that age and was pretty naïve about lots of things. The South African president should step in and severely punish men that marry girls at such an early age. No one has a right to take away a little girl’s childhood and innocence!