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Lamola welcomes proposed recommendations to criminalise forced and child marriages in SA

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola welcomes proposed recommendations to end forced marriages in SA. File photo.
Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola welcomes proposed recommendations to end forced marriages in SA. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Justice minister Ronald Lamola has welcomed proposed recommendations to criminalise forced marriages in SA. 

The Law Reform Commission this week handed over four reports to Lamola, one of which recommends new legislation on ukuthwala (abduction) that makes forced and child marriages criminal offences.

Originally, ukuthwala involved kidnapping a girl or a young woman by a man and his friends or peers to compel the girl or young woman’s family to endorse marriage negotiations. 

In ancient Africa, the practice was a condoned albeit an abnormal path to marriage targeted at certain girls or women of marriageable age. However, it has been abused and young girls are being abducted and kidnapped in the name of ukuthwala.

The report was among four reports from chairperson of the commission Justice Jody Kollapen, which were submitted to Lamola.

Lamola said the report states that the enactment of a new statute is required to deal specifically with the issue of forced marriage to send a powerful message to perpetrators and ordinary South Africans alike.

“The seriousness of problems associated with distorted ukuthwala is of such a magnitude that a clear and specific piece of legislation is necessary,” he said. 

“This will also compel stakeholders to do the necessary to curb the practice and to deal appropriately with victims if such is outlined in law. The current law relating to the age of consent cannot be regarded as settled and a new definitive statement would go a long way towards clarifying this area of the law.”

The report aims to make it a criminal offence for anyone who attempts or conspires, aids, abets, induces, incites, instigates, instructs, commands, counsels or procures another person to enter into a forced or child marriage.

It will allow victims of forced and child marriages to apply for a forced marriage protection order, which is a remedy that may contain prohibitions, restrictions, requirements or other terms the court may consider appropriate.

“A person commits the offence of forced marriage if he or she uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion to cause another person to enter into a marriage, and believes, or ought reasonably to believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent,” said the report. 

“Any person found guilty of the offences referred in this act, may be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period in line with the punishment prescribed for the offences of assault, abduction, kidnapping, rape and human trafficking or a fine or both such imprisonment or fine.”

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