Outlaw forced marriages, urge maidens

THE government must do away with out-dated traditions that discriminate against women and children, such as forced marriages (ukuthwala).

This appeal was made by young girls from various parts of KwaZulu-Natal who participated in a two-week-long programme organised by Indoni - a moral regeneration programme that focuses on empowering young people.

Indoni uses culture, tradition and identity to bring about behavioural change.

The programme provides young people with the skills and competencies necessary to contribute positively to society.

"As Zulus, we have good traditions that we should be proud of. Among these is the annual Reed Dance.

"But we also have outdated practices such as ukuthwala or forced marriage," said Thenjiwe Hadebe from Umsinga.

Hadebe won the Indoni 2012 competition and earned a bursary to study any culturally-related course at a university of her choice.

Slindile Dlamini, from Ladysmith, said they were taught to respect their parents and other people, as well as about their culture at the programme.

Dlamini also lashed out at forced marriages.

"It's not right. Maybe past generations had no problem with the practice, but we are definitely against it.

"It should not have been allowed in the first place. Those still practising it should be sentenced to a life in prison," she said.

KwaZulu-Natal legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni said the government was against traditions that made women and children inferior citizens.

She singled out ukungenwa (where a widow is forced to marry her late husband's brother.

"How can members of your family decide that because your husband has died, his brother, who you have no feelings for, should now be your husband?

"We discourage such practices," said Nkonyeni.

Indoni founder Nomcebo Mthembu said while her's was the first cultural school in the country, they had branches in all the provinces.

"She said each province had its own camp where 200 children were admitted.

"The aim of these camps is to teach young people about their culture and traditions.

"While this is happening at national level, we want to take it further by teaching young Africans about their unique traditions," she said.