May 27th, 2012
06:43 PM ET

Girl brides abducted as fabled HIV cure

By Justine Lang and Robyn Curnow, CNN

KwaCele, South Africa (CNN) - The landscape of the rural Eastern Cape in South Africa has a haunting beauty. A myriad of round turquoise huts scatter across the land in a series of endless villages.

Yet these villages are also home to a terrible and devastating traditional practice that destroys children's lives and tears families apart.

In these villages, girls as young as 12 are kidnapped by older men and forced to 'marry.' It is accepted as part of the Xhosa people's culture. It has continued unabated for decades.

Ukuthwala, which translates as 'to pick up' or 'to take,' is used to justify the abduction of girls. In many cases the parents have given their consent in exchange for a bride price.

But a concerted campaign to educate these isolated communities of the illegality of under-aged sex and abduction appears to be paying off.

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