Minister condemns forced marriages of young girls

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pretoria - Minister in the Presidency Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has condemned the practice of forcing young girls into early marriages, saying it undermined the rights of children.

Releasing the Situation Analysis of Children in South Africa Report on Thursday, the minister said it was wrong to force girls into marrying older men who expected them to cook, wash and clean for them.

"Young girls have been abducted to marry older men in the Eastern Cape. They are expected to cook, wash, iron and have babies," she told reporters and children from different homes who attended the briefing.

She said this practice was not part of the country's value system and government was committed to eradicate this harmful custom.

"All spheres and sectors of government, traditional leadership and communities have committed to work together to eliminate this harmful practice so that girls in these areas can feel free and safe to pursue in particular their education," she said.

The government commissioned a study, which was led by the United Nations Children's fund, (UNICEF), to analyse the situation of children in South Africa between 2007 and 2008.

The study covered progress made by government on child survival, protection and development over the years.

The report identified problems with upholding constitutional rights, the African convention on the rights and welfare of the child as well as UN conventions on the rights of children.

Some of the challenges highlighted by the research was that disabled children were not able to access opportunities that others could.

It also highlighted that there was a need for further cooperation between government departments.

The report further recommends that more resources need to be allocated programmes that deal with health service provision for children, compulsory education, to support children in difficult circumstances and in need of care.

"We do recognise that children are the future of our country. You are a very precious gift," the minister told the children who attended the briefing.