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An exploratory study on ukuthwala and crime: a perspective of inqaba kamvelinqangi cultural organization.

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Ukuthwala evokes emotive responses, with those who either support or oppose the practice. Ukuthwala has also resulted in public debate due to abductions which are viewed as against the young women's consent, but not much has been done to investigate the practice of ukuthwala among the Zulus of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) in post-1994 South Africa. Therefore, this study investigates the original or real meaning of the culture of ukuthwala in the Zulu and it linkage to crime. The study is motivated by the misunderstandings or misinterpretations people have about the culture of ukuthwala. It has been labeled as abusive and as a crime by certain scholars while it is just a cultural practice that was meant to solve a problem between a young man and a young woman who were in a love relationship and intended to marry, but were faced with obstacles to realize their dream (Nyembezi & Nxumalo, 1995). It is a qualitative study. This study highlights the ongoing debate as to whether ukuthwala may be practiced as a means to open up the marriage negotiation process, and concludes that both men and women understand ukuthwala as a Zulu custom which opens up marriage negotiation process. Accordingly, ukuthwala in this traditional form is understood as not violating the rights of young women and children. This study encountered the challenge that the South African laws fail to ensure that the abuse of the culture of ukuthwala is firstly eradicated and secondly that there are criminal sanctions for the violation. Ukuthwala is a Zulu custom that opens up a space for women’s agency where they can decide to marry a man they choose and end the relationship they do not want. In this way the women are able to command the men whom they love, and who have resources and therefore are also powerful to act in a way the woman wants with regard to initiating negotiations for the marriage. However, it can also be viewed as a Zulu custom carried out by powerful men who have resources and therefore can pay ilobolo (bride wealth), as a power display directed at other men who happen to be their competitors. The study also conceives of ukuthwala as a cultural practice, and as a social construction that is gendered; it adopts zero tolerance to the abduction of young women. The study suggests that if all stakeholders work together through the process of collaboration, interventions are possible and criminals can be sanctioned. The study recommends further research of issues pertaining to culture, sex, sexuality, gender, masculinities and ukuthwala, in order to support an intervention into the socialization of boys, to help them in making informed decisions before engaging in ukuthwala.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.