SOUTH AFRICA’S FIGHT AGAINST HARMFUL CULTURAL PRACTICES AFFECTING CHILDREN

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  • Despite progress in child protection, South African children still face harmful cultural practices such as forced marriages (ukuthwalwa) and unsafe initiation rituals (ukwaluka).
  • A recent report by Statistics South Africa highlights the prevalence of child marriages and the continued vulnerability of children to violence, with 34 initiates dying in the Eastern Cape during the latest initiation season.
  • To address these issues, the Department of Social Development will commemorate International Children’s Day on June 8 in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga Province, under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice.”

Although South Africa has made significant strides in protecting children, they still face many harmful practices in the name of culture. To address this, the Department of Social Development has decided to spotlight harmful cultural practices that undermine the care and protection of children. Among these practices are ukuthwalwa (forced marriage) and ukwaluka (initiation rituals).

A report titled “Situation Analysis on Children” by Statistics South Africa reveals that between 2006 and 2021, there were about 207 child marriages in 2021 alone. Of these, 37 were civil marriages and 19 were customary solemnised marriages. The report also indicates that children remain highly vulnerable to violence.

According to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, at least 34 initiates died during the past initiation season in the Eastern Cape Province. To tackle this and other challenges negatively impacting children, the Department of Social Development, in line with its legislative mandate outlined in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, will commemorate International Children’s Day on Saturday, June 8, in KwaMhlanga, Mpumalanga Province.

International Children’s Day, originally commemorated on June 1, was moved to June 8 due to elections. This year, the theme is “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice,” aligned with the 365 Days Child Protection Programme.

The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, proclaimed June 1 as International Children’s Day in 1925, a day now observed annually to draw attention to children’s issues worldwide.

The Department of Social Development’s focus includes preventing harmful cultural practices and ensuring the safety of boys at initiation schools. On the day, children and parents will be educated about harmful practices like ukuthwala and will have the opportunity to express their views. The commemoration will also promote children’s right to participation, raise awareness about child abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and educate children on how to report abuse-related cases.

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