IN South Africa a child means a person under the age of 18. There was a recent uproar about the practice of ukuthwala as practised by communities in Eastern Cape.
A person married in terms of civil law must not be more equal than a person married in terms of customary practice.
If it is wrong to marry a person under the age of 18, it has to be wrong whether it is a civil marriage or a union in terms of customary practice.
Lawyers are now very active in that province. One is compelled to ask whether the sudden interest is simply because AmaBhaca, AmaFingo, AmamPondo and AmaGcaleka are now practising their culture or whether it is truly informed by wanting to protect the interests of children.
If it is out of concern for children, why is section 24 to section 27 of our Marriage Act 25 of 1961, legislation that came into operation on January 1 1962, still on our statute books as the law?
These sections make provision for a child to enter into a so-called civil marriage, what AmaZulu would refer to as "umfazi we phepha".
These sections provide for the consent of the parents, guardians, the commissioner of child welfare and the Minister of Home Affairs as a prerequisite in differing circumstances. But the bottom line is that children are married in terms of the so-called civil law.
On what basis are western practices holier than our own indigenous practices? If it is wrong to marry a child, it must be for all marriages.
Daniel Thulare, Benoni