Chapters in Books (Unit for Religion and Development Research)

Permanent URI for this collection


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 2 of 2
  • Item
    Recognising and responding to complex dilemmas : child marriage in South Africa
    (African Sun Media, 2020) Le Roux, Elisabet
    In a June 2019 exposé on child marriage in South Africa, the investigative journalism television show Carte Blanche drew renewed attention to the more than 90 000 girls in South Africa who entered marriages as child brides. The show focused on a “polluted ukuthwala” as a major driver of child marriage, unpacking how traditional cultural practices have become warped to the extent that it leads to young girls being forced to marry older men against their will (Forced child marriages 2019). Nevertheless, South Africa remains a country with one of the lowest rates of child marriage in Africa. Compared to countries,such as Niger, where 76% of women aged 20-24 years were first married or in a union before they were 18 years old, and the Central African Republic, where it is 68% of girls, South Africa’s rates are low: the last available data, collected in 2003, showed that only 6% of girls in South Africa are married before the age of 18 years (Institut National de la Statistique 2013; ICASEES 2010; Department of Health 2007). However, these statistics paint a misleading picture of the fate of thousands of girl children1 in South Africa. This chapter will briefly unpack the nature, drivers and consequences of child marriage, followed by a focus on South African legislation and cultural practices relevant to child marriage. This is a prelude to an in-depth discussion of three key dilemmas relating to the phenomenon, namely the inadequacy of a legislative response, the clash between the primacy of human rights versus cultural rights, and the reality of transactional intergenerational sex in relationships other than marriages. Recognition of these dilemmas leads to acknowledgement that current responses to child marriage are not merely woefully inadequate, but also fail to grasp the full scale of the problem.
  • Item
    Seen but not heard? Engaging the mechanisms of faith to end violence against children
    (African Sun Media, 2020) Palm, Selina
    In South Africa today, many children face high levels of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, as well as sustained neglect and exploitation. Families and homes, despite their protective possibilities, often remain the most vulnerable place for young children. Violence against children, either silenced or hidden from public sight, can become a normalised pattern for both adults and children with concerning long-term consequences. In the last few decades, this issue has received more sustained attention. Increasingly, evidence shows that it is imperative that both children and adults understand that children have full rights to bodily integrity and to grow, survive, thrive, participate and make their voices heard. This chapter will explore the role of Christian faith communities1 in ending violence against children in South Africa today, in the light of recent strategies identified by experts as effective in preventing violence. It will draw on key insights from global child protection experts in a 2018 scoping study (Palm 2019a) carried out by academic experts from South Africa who interrogated both positive and negative aspects of the relationships between faith and violence against children to offer recommendations for faith communities’ unique theological role in ending violence against children, including tackling harmful social norms and underlying beliefs (Palm & Eyber 2019). Children have not always been served well by religious precepts. The expression ‘children should be seen and not heard’ is an old English proverb dating from the 15th century2 which was recommended by religious leaders of the day and transported elsewhere on colonial ships. This harmful legacy of quiet obedience by children who were expected to know their place, was often accompanied by religiously infused dictates that ‘to spare the rod would spoil the child’. These are just two ways that religious values can entangle with existing cultural norms in ways that reinforce harmful attitudes to children. In a context of violence against children, these religious legitimations, still used today by some, endanger their safety and protection. Christian faith communities in South Africa are, therefore, faced with an ethical challenge which requires them to reshape inherited harmful interpretations of theologies still used to legitimise certain forms of violence against children. Only if this takes place, can they effectively collaborate with the wider children’s sector at many levels within the child protection system to help re-orientate how children are treated. This chapter will point to the promise within child liberation theologies that can help to underpin this ethical task. This can assist local churches to place children at the centre of their faith as full citizens of the beloved community of God whose suffering needs to be seen and whose voices must be heard.