A seventeen-year-old girl from Maseru resisted an old and abusive traditional practice commonly known as Chobeliso, which would have forced her into marriage without her consent.
It is understood the girl’s parents had blessed the barbaric practice on the grounds that the husband-to-be was from a rich family.
The teenage ‘bride’ was abducted by two men aged between 20 and 30 years at about 2 pm while she was on her way back home from a church service on Christmas day last year.
One of her abductors was a man whose marriage proposal she had repeatedly turned down. The abductor, working in cohorts with his family and the girl’s parents, kept the girl locked up for four days to force her to accept the marriage proposal.
In an interview this week, the teenager said she only realised that it was the family of the suitor she had rejected which was forcing her into marriage after she had spent the night locked up in a room. The rejected suitor’s mother visited her the next morning and did not appear shocked to find her in that state.
“She returned to the room later on with a Seshoeshoe (traditional) dress and asked me to bath and change into a clean dress. I refused and she left and later returned with an elderly woman. They forced me to bath despite my protestations that the only thing I wanted was to go home,” she said.
Her real shock soon came when her mother also entered the room to ‘counsel’ her into agreeing into the marriage, explaining that arrangements were already at an advanced stage.
“My mother told me that the family was rich and that my ‘new husband’ would take good care of me. I told her I was just a child and not ready for marriage, let alone discuss it.”
The following day the abductor’s family slaughtered a goat to celebrate the ‘marriage’ but the teenager said she refused to participate in the celebration and continued to demand her release.
“They tried to force me to eat the goat meat but I told them that I don’t like goat meat.”
In an unexpected twist of events, the girl’s aunt reported the matter to the police, forcing the girl’s father to collect her from the home of her abductor.
Speaking to the Sunday Express last week, the girl’s father confirmed the two families had discussed marriage arrangements.
“The young man’s family had come to ask for her hand in marriage and discussions were underway. However, he grew impatient and decided to take matters into his own hands. When I learnt of the abduction, I visited the family to discuss the issue with my daughter. I brought her back home after she explained to me that she was not ready for marriage,” the father said.
He confirmed the issue was resolved by the police who told him that although the Chobeliso was a culturally accepted practice, it was a criminal offence under the current Lesotho laws.
Police Spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli confirmed the matter was reported to the police, adding he needed more time to find out what action was taken against the two families.