I fought with all my might

      Year of Birth: 1956

      Ntsimbini, Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape

      “I was 13 when I was thwalad, my husband was 17.

      We used to carry mugs to school so we could stop at the river for a drink of water on our way to and from school. I was at the bank of the river and I had my schoolbooks. He and his uncle approached me and his uncle, calling me by name, asked me for some water. Instead of taking the mug I handed it to him he grabbed me and I cried out. My husband put a handkerchief over my mouth and they blindfolded me with a headscarf and tied my hands together.

      I fought. I fought with all my might. Although my hands were tied I fought hard. We walked for a while before I was bundled into a truck. It was far. We only got to our destination at night. When we got to his aunt’s house I told them that a case should be opened against them and they should be arrested because what they did was wrong. They didn’t beat me along the way though.

      They didn’t take me to their village, they took me to my husband’s aunt’s house. They said I was getting married and I asked how that could be when I was still so young and at school. They told me the home I was marrying into had nobody, I was to build up the home. I asked why I had not been consulted first because this was not the right way for me to be married. But they had already sent word to my family. I was forced to stay.

      When you are married to someone and you don’t want to have sexual intercourse with him, he beats you. It is no different to rape because you are forced into it. I told him to call his aunt if he wanted to have sex with me so that she could see that I was just a child, a virgin, and that a child as young as me should not be sleeping with a man. A cow must go to my family for that reason. I had to be brave and speak up because I was left alone with this man, I had to tell him what my rights were.

      He fetched his aunt and I told her that I did not want to sleep in the same room with him, and could she please find him another place to sleep. She asked how else would I realise I was a wife, and I told her not now, not like this. They were forced to give my family the lobola cattle. They were a poor family. They only paid five cows.

      After that the aunt came back to me and said when you are married a man sleeps with his wife. I said no, not in this home, this is not the home of the man I was married to. I stayed there for three days before being taken to my husband’s home. Although my parents complained that at 13 I was too young to be married, they consented to my marriage and I stayed.

      I endured the marriage.

      When you are told that you are a wife and the mother of this home and your role is to build up the home, it doesn’t occur to you that you can leave. Besides, it was a disgrace for a married woman to leave.

      My husband treated me well. His mother loved me and was very kind to me. His sisters also loved me and treated me well. Even now when they see me they love me.

      My husband died after two years and his stepfather sent me back home because I didn’t bear any children during the marriage. He also took back their five cows. My father tried to stop him, saying he must leave at least one cow behind because I was, after all, a wife, but he refused. My father reported the matter to the chief, who ruled that at least one cow must return, but he never returned it.

      I wanted to stay because I was happy there, and my mother-in-law also wanted me to stay, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have children. Up until my husband died my father-in-law also treated me well, so it came as quite a shock to me when he sent me home. It was clear that the issue here was getting the cattle back. It broke my heart that I had to leave but in a way I did understand that I couldn’t stay because I hadn’t produced any children.

      I knew ukuthwala happened, but I never thought it would happen to me. But when it comes you just accept it.”

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