Understanding the custom of Ukuthwala involves more than just recognising its cultural significance; one must also be aware of the stringent criteria set by customary law. Here we outline the key requirements that differentiate Ukuthwala from criminal abduction.
Essential Role of Consent in Ukuthwala
The first, and arguably the most crucial requirement, is the prospective bride’s consent. A lack of consent could mean the act is a criminal offence, not Ukuthwala.
Prohibitions During the Ukuthwala Process
It’s essential to know that any sexual activity between the involved parties is strictly prohibited while the prospective bride is at the suitor’s family home. Breaching this guideline could lead to criminal consequences.
Current Legal Marriageable Age in Ukuthwala
With evolving laws, the legal age for marriage under the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act 120 of 1998 is now 18. This modernises the previous age range, which was historically between 12 and 16 years.
Required Notifications and Formalities
Upon the act of abduction, the suitor’s father must be promptly informed of both the woman’s presence and the suitor’s marital intentions. Furthermore, the suitor’s family is responsible for formally inviting the woman’s family to start lobola negotiations, usually spearheaded by the male family members.
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