The Clash between Human Rights and Culture: Case Studies of South Africa and Zimbabwe

Ncube, Nesisa Amanda (2018-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Culture is an important aspect of African people’s lives. It informs the way in which communities are structured and how men and women relate to each other. In South Africa and Zimbabwe, looking specifically at the Zulu and Shona cultures respectively, culture is still seen as the anchor of people’s lives. This is seen mostly in the rural and semi-rural areas of these two countries, where the cultures are still respected and lived. Zimbabwe and South Africa are multicultural states who seek to recognise all religious and ethnic groups. Although culture is constitutionally protected, certain customs and traditions that violate the rights of women and girl children are still observed. These harmful cultural practices are in direct conflict with human rights resulting in these two concepts (human rights and culture) being treated as a binary. Certain cultural practices have led to gender inequalities more specifically in the private sphere, that is, the home, where customs and traditions are passed down from generation to generation. This thesis investigated what the perceptions of men and women are on human rights and culture and how their attitudes contributed to the acceptance or rejection of harmful cultural practices among Zulus in South Africa and Shonas in Zimbabwe. The harmful cultural practices (harmful as defined by international treaties) focused on virginity testing; ukuthwala in South African; early child marriage; and lobola in Zimbabwe. Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were used to gather data. It was found that the respondents viewed ukuthwala (South Africa) and early child marriage (Zimbabwe) as customs that undermine human rights and, therefore, should be abolished. However, customs such as virginity testing and lobola were not seen as harmful although the respondents were able to point out negative aspects of these customs. Overall it was found that the respondents see human rights and culture as important and therefore live hybrid lives, where they attempt to find a balance between modernity and culture in their everyday lives. The women respondents recognised that their role in the home and in the community at large is continuously changing due to socio-economic changes giving them more room to exercise their agency. However, they still see culture as important supporting the notion of hybridity in a modern world, balancing culture and rights.

AFRKAANSE OPSOMMING: Kultuur is ʼn belangrike aspek van Afrika-mense se lewens. Dit rig die manier waarop gemeenskappe gestruktureer word en waarop mans en vroue by mekaar aansluiting vind. In Suid-Afrika en Zimbabwe, in spesifiek onderskeidelik die Zoeloe- en Shona-kultuur, word kultuur steeds as die anker van mense se lewens beskou. Dit kan gesien word in die landelike gebiede van hierdie twee lande, waar die kulture steeds gerespekteer en uitgeleef word. Zimbabwe en Suid-Afrika is multikulturele state wat erkenning aan alle geloofs- en etniese groepe gee. Alhoewel kultuur grondwetlik beskerm word, word sekere gewoontes en tradisies wat die regte van vroue en meisies skend, steeds gehandhaaf. Hierdie skadelike kulturele praktyke is in direkte konflik met menseregte, wat daartoe lei dat kultuur en menseregte as in opposisie tot mekaar gesien word.. Sekere kulturele praktyke gee aanleiding tot geslagsongelykhede, spesifiek in die privaat sfeer, met ander woorde die huis, waar gewoontes en tradisies van generasie na generasie oorgedra word. Hierdie studie behels ‘n ondersoek na die persepsies van mans en vroue van menseregte en kultuur en hoe hul houdings tot die aanvaarding of verwerping van skadelike kulturele praktyke onder Zoeloes in Suid-Afrika en Shonas in Zimbabwe bydra. Die skadelike kulturele praktyke (skadelik soos deur internasionale ooreenkomste gedefinieer) het gefokus op maagdelikheidtoetsing en ukuthwala in Suid-Afrika en kinderhuwelike en lobola in Zimbabwe. Kwantitatiewe en kwalitatiewe metodologieë is gebruik om data in te samel. Daar is gevind dat die respondente ukuthwala (Suid-Afrika) en kinderhuwelike (Zimbabwe) as gewoontes beskou wat menseregte ondermyn en dus afgeskaf moet word. Tradisies soos maagdelikheidtoetsing en lobola is egter nie as skadelik beskou nie, alhoewel die respondente negatiewe aspekte van hierdie gewoontes kon uitwys. In die algemeen is gevind dat die respondente menseregte en kultuur as belangrik beskou en dus hibriede lewens lei, waar hulle poog om ʼn balans tussen moderniteit en kultuur in hul daaglikse lewens te vind. Die vrouerespondente het erken dat hul rol in die huis en in die gemeenskap in die algemeen voortdurend weens sosio-ekonomiese veranderinge verander wat hulle meer ruimte gee om hul mag uit te oefen. Hulle beskou kultuur egter steeds as belangrik, wat die idee van hibriditeit van kultuur en regte as deel van modernisasie bevestig.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/105042
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