‘Ukuthwala’ is a Zulu term to describe the traditional custom of an arranged marriage between a young girl and a man. Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is GLAD that Daily Sun’s editorial “Ukuthwala is an evil that must be ended” (15/11/2010, p. 8) scrutinised this children’s and gender rights abuse from multiple angles.

The editorial started by pointing out that ‘Ukuthwala’ is “terribly wrong” and persistently takes place out of our sight. It is described as a practice where a “predator… pursues a girl with the purpose of making her his wife… against her will.”

Several vital and debatable aspects of this practice are highlighted in the article. Editor Themba Khumalo is critical of those who defend the practice as “part of our culture” and argues that it’s time we bury it in the “grave of old history” and begin to actively realize women’s rights to freedom of choice.

Further strengthening the arguments presented in the editorial is its reference to the South African Constitution and legislation and critically emphasises that the problem lies in the failure to implement and enforce these laws. It also made the case that it is not just the men who demand the right to marry young girls that must be punished, but also the girls’ parents and caretakers who accept payment for them.

The editorial ends by stating that this traditional practice “undermines” South Africa’s democracy, and asks Minister for Women, Children and People with Disability, Lulu Xingwana, to “get angry and… do something about this.”

MMA is pleased about Daily Sun’s effort to highlight a serious children’s and gender rights issue, and encourages all media to debate this in an ongoing and critical manner.