The only effort made by the ruling party to address the plight of girls who have suffered the illegal Ukuthwala-practice seems to have been dumping the victims at the Palmerton Hostel in Lusikisiki.

When the Portfolio Committee for Education visited the school recently, there were only eight Ukuthwala-victims, yet reports have suggested that some 200 girls from Lusikisiki alone have been targets of this practise in the past two years.

The child-victims of such forced marriages have been failed by the ANC and the Department of Education, who has done nothing but pay lip service around gender equality and the serious violations committed against female children in the Eastern Cape. More shocking is that this is taking place in the heartland of the ruling party.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the Minister responsible for Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, have said that forcing young girls to marry under the custom of Ukuthwala has been declared illegal.

No effective learning is taking place at the school because of the state of mind of these children.

Educators with special skills, especially psychology, should be appointed at the school. These highly traumatised children have not received the necessary quality counselling and they are in a constant state of fear.

There are no security measures in place at the school. The Portfolio Committee learned that the Principal was threatened with his life by one of the illegal husbands.

The Department should clearly quantify its plan of action and date of implementation to prevent these children from being further tortured mentally and physically.

Financial regulations should not frustrate the implementation of measures that will safeguard, educate, develop and council these children.
A remedial programme and negative effects of Ukuthwala should be included in the curriculum of all rural schools

The DA believes that the Department of Education should ensure that the interests and rights of these girls are protected.

The practice of Ukuthwala relates to early and forced marriages, whereby a girl is forcefully abducted and removed from her family, and married off to another family to be a wife to a complete stranger, in may cases a much older man. Other processes, including sexual engagements, would not take place until the family gives consent. Then all the traditional wedding procedures would follow, without the consent of the girl.

For further information, please contact Edmund van Vuuren, MPL on 072 184 7840