Traditional leaders praised for denouncing ukuthwala

Friday, December 1, 2017
By: 
More Matshediso

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised traditional leaders for taking a stand against harmful and destructive practices like ukuthwala and promoting progressive cultural practices.

Ukuthwala is a custom in which men forcefully marry young girls without their consent.

The Deputy President said the custom robs girls of an opportunity to complete school, girls end up becoming young mothers and sometimes they are abandoned and left destitute.

“Culture is supposed to build. It is not meant to limit developmental opportunities for our children. Our traditional leaders are standing up to say it was never part of African culture to deny our children full opportunities and freedoms to make reproductive health choices.”

He said the Kings and Chiefs were also rejecting the notion that it is part of African culture to abuse women and to forcefully circumcise young boys without the knowledge and involvement of their parents.

As the Chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), the Deputy President said traditional leaders were recognised as key players in the country’s strategic plan to end new HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections.

“As respected custodians of our culture, traditional leaders have a significant influence on social attitude and behaviour.”

The Deputy President was addressing scores of people who had gathered to commemorate World Aids Day at Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape.

Every 1st of December, the world stands in solidarity with people living with and affected by HIV. It is a day dedicated to the memory of friends and loved ones who are no more because of Aids.

It is also a day on which local and global social partners dedicate their energy to raise awareness about the HIV epidemic and share plans to end it. The world also pays tribute to the organisations and activists who have devoted their lives fighting for the recognition of the rights of people living with HIV.

Prevention revolution

Deputy President Ramaphosa said the call for a prevention revolution is an appeal for a fundamental change in the way people relate to each other. “It is a call that envisions a new society based on equality, non-sexism and human dignity as called for in the Freedom Charter.”

South Africa aspires to be a society where women are economically free and culturally empowered to refuse to have intercourse with men who refuse to use a condom. The ideal South Africa is a society in which the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community is free from stigmatisation.

“Such a revolution must produce a new woman and a new man who seek empathy, compassion and understanding – not indifference, prejudice and ignorance.

“This is a call to end patriarchy, sexism, poverty, unemployment and inequality, all of which increase the vulnerability of women to contracting HIV and Aids and other sexually transmitted infections.”

Government’s efforts

South Africa has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, with about 4.2 million people on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

The Deputy President said the country still has a long way to go as about 7.1 million people have tested HIV positive. “We intend testing and treating at least 6.2 million people with HIV by 2020.”

Government will be introducing a new treatment combination from April next year, known as Dolutegrevir. He said the new treatment will save money, which in turn will allow government to put more patients on treatment.

New infections are coming down, but too slowly. “We had an estimated 270 000 new infections in 2016 and the target is to reduce these to no more than 88 000 by 2020,” said the Deputy President.

He said more than 900 million male and 40 million female condoms are distributed in a year, urging people to consistently condomise as it is the most effective way of preventing HIV and unplanned pregnancies.

Society has to work harder to prevent new infections. “The number of people who die from HIV and TB is decreasing, although still unacceptably high. Part of the reason for this decline is that we have large numbers of people on treatment.

“We know that stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV makes it a challenge for people to test for HIV and for those infected to seek treatment.

“We know that the marginalisation, discrimination and persecution of vulnerable groups like sex workers and men who have sex with men only create conditions for the spread, not prevention of HIV.”

The epidemics of HIV, TB and non-communicable disease drain the economy of its most talented people in their most productive years.

He applauded the Chamber of Mines for pledging nearly R2 million towards the HIV and TB screening of the people in O R Tambo District Municipality.

The Deputy President encouraged the correct and consistent use of condoms, as well as circumcision, testing for HIV, and stopping the abuse of women and members of the LGBTI community. - SAnews.gov.za

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