WEIRD NEWS

9-Year-Old South African Boy Marries Elderly Woman

07/22/2014 03:33 pm ET | Updated Jul 25, 2014

It's not legal, it's not sexual, but it is still disturbing.

A woman in her 60s, who is a mother of five, renewed her marriage vows with a 9-year-old boy in a wedding ceremony in South Africa earlier this month.

Helen Shabangu wed Sanele Masilela in a second ceremony in as many years on July 12 in Kildare Village, Ximhungwe.

The couple got married last year after Masilela said his dead ancestors told him to, according to Barcroft Media.

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nine year old groom

The second ceremony took place because the boy wanted to make it "official," though members of both families made it clear that the marriage was not legally binding, the pair do not live together and, as the Independent reports, they don't have sexual relations.

In fact, Shabangu is a married mother of five, according to South Africa's Daily Sun, where the story appears to have originated.

But, the Sun reports that some villagers found the ceremony disgusting.

“I am shocked. This is wrong," Tressy Mathebula told the Sun.

The wedding was also attended by Shabangu's husband, Alfred Shabangu, who spoke out in support of the wedding.

"My kids and I are happy because we don't have a problem with her marrying the boy -- and I don’t care what other people say,” Shabangu said, according to the Mirror.

Masilela's mother, Patience, defended the wedding, as well, in a press release obtained by BuzzFeed.

"People keep asking will they live together, sleep together, have babies, but I keep telling them that after the wedding, everything went back to normal –- nothing changed," she said. "All this ceremony is for making ancestors happy. We are playing.”

Masilela told Barcroft he would marry a woman his own age when he got older.

His parents shelled out about $1,700 for the ceremony, according to Barcroft.

With these stories that come from far-off lands and are pitched by photo agencies, there is often cause to be skeptical that they are, in fact, what they appear to be.

The Huffington Post reached out to Joel Samoff, a professor of African studies at Stanford University in California, who called the story "possible" but not "significant."

"I suppose it is possible. But it is certainly not significant. Perhaps in the realm of carnival side shows -- the lady with the heavy beard, or twelve fingers and toes," Samoff said in an email to HuffPost.

The professor also said that having two ceremonies was not unusual.

"On ceremonies, just as in the U.S., sometimes the two families prefer to organize two ceremonies, for example, in a Christian/Jewish marriage, or when the two families live far apart," Samoff said. "That, too, seems neither very unusual nor very significant."

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