Young girl ‘brides’ abducted as fabled HIV cure
Justine Lang and Robyn Curnow report for CNN:
KwaCele, South Africa (CNN) – The landscape of the rural Eastern Cape in South Africa has a haunting beauty. A myriad of round turquoise huts scatter across the land in a series of endless villages.
Yet these villages are also home to a terrible and devastating traditional practice that destroys children’s lives and tears families apart.
In these villages, girls as young as 12 are kidnapped by older men and forced to ‘marry.’ It is accepted as part of the Xhosa people’s culture. It has continued unabated for decades.
Ukuthwala, which translates as ‘to pick up’ or ‘to take,’ is used to justify the abduction of girls. In many cases the parents have given their consent in exchange for a bride price.
Complicating the matter is a chilling, modern belief, as Nombasa explains: “There is a myth that if you sleep with a young girl who is a virgin and as a man you are HIV positive then HIV can be cured. That is why they are focusing on these young girls.”
Nombasa said many of the male abductors are older men, widowed by HIV. They then look for a younger “virgin bride” and invariably end up infecting them too.
But a concerted campaign to educate these isolated communities of the illegality of under-aged sex and abduction appears to be paying off.