n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - Contextualizing the practice of within South Africa

Volume 13, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



The article explores the cultural practice of ukuthwala and illustrates how it has digressed from a traditional practice to a merely criminal act. It draws a distinction between the pure customary practice of ukuthwala and its current distorted form and further examines how the practice results in the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The article draws on the primary authors' experience in the criminal investigation of child trafficking cases and two actual case studies are discussed to highlight how the traditional form of ukuthwala has been distorted and become a criminal act. The traditional themes of the ukuthwala practice are highlighted in both case studies and an attempt is made by the authors to explore whether there are possible common dynamics between ukuthwala and child trafficking. An African theory of the causes of crime is applied in an attempt to explore the multitude of variables which contribute to this complex phenomenon. Finally, the article underscores the psychosocial impact of ukuthwala on child victims and the wider ripple effect on society as a whole and addresses societies seeming reluctance to become involved or challenge the harmful form of this practice. Recommendations for policy and further research are suggested.

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