"The girl is not consulted" : Abduction marriages and gendered traditions of violence

Monday, 21 August, 2023 - 16:00

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This is an on-line seminarPlease, register for the session in advance of the meeting at :  https://wits-za.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJckd-ytrzwiEtHogJsRMtAP8ZsyGZpprMs4

Chapter 2 from Violence in Rural South Africa, 1880–1963.

The current problem of sexual violence in South Africa may have its roots in the official treatment of sexual violence as a traditional element of marriage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By the 1930s to 1960s, the white controlled state’s official position toward ukuthwala, accepting it as a customary form of marriage, was part of the broader refusal to see sexual violence as criminal when that violence occurred to African women. Traditional marriage practices, including abduction marriages, thus continued under the reimagined form of customary law practiced in the rural native reserves, areas that later became homelands under apartheid policies. But the state was not the only relevant actor in the historical process that constructed abduction marriages as both traditional and legal in the twentieth century. Prospective husbands performed the abductions and often did so with the collaboration of parents and guardians; they sometimes did so with the ultimate acceptance of the abducted girls. Many women, both as mothers and as brides, apparently went along with these marriages and encouraged other women to go along with them too. Not all women consented to these marriages, but the daughters’ wishes were rarely considered relevant: if they were under twenty one and their parents or condoned the wedding, then the claims of tradition trumped the daughters’ personal preferences.

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