The On the 27th of October 2011 Swaziland made history as the House of Assembly passed both bills on the same day. However there is still advocacy work to be done. Following the passing of the Bill by the House of Assembly it is to be debated and signed by the House of Senate before its presentation to His Majesty King Mswati III for Royal Assent.
Several weeks after the completion of the first phase, the Bill still remains in the House of Assembly due to administrative issues creating a barrier to its tabling in the House of Senate. In support of the enactment of the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Bill, Swaziland Vigil UK participated in a walk which was organized by Care International UK (WALK IN HER SHOES), on the 8th of March 2015 at The Scoop at More London. Before we set off on our walk we had hosts of Radio 4's Woman's Hour Jane Garvey in conversation with -
- Gemma Arterton – an actress and Women's Equalities Campaigner [ best known for her role in James Bond Quantum of Solace and the hit West End Musical,
- Gemma Cairney - Radio 1 Dj
- Laura Bates - founder of the everyday sexism project
- Helen Pankuhurst - women's right activist in Ethiopia
- Jayanthi Kuru Utumpala - Sri Lanka equal rights campaigner
- Justice Greening - Secretary of State for International Development
Swazi Vigil UK activists:
- Khanyisile Ndlangamandla
- Clement M. Gama
- Theophilus (Theo) Ceko
- Christabel N. Magagula
- Delisile Kunene
- Rainy Dlamini
- Nokwazi Nxumalo
The above listed were representatives of Swaziland Vigil UK and women in Swaziland, who participated in the walk in support of the law which is still pending royal assent to enactment 5 years after it was passed in the house of assembly.
Our concern as Swazi Vigil UK activists and Swazis (eMaSwati) is: It has been 5 years now waiting for the royal assent for the bill to be made into law, why has this taken so long when the statistics of rape and child abuse, women's rights or lack thereof has escalated in Swaziland?
"Nine out of ten women in communities have been abused. They have been harassed, beaten, raped, mutilated or murdered, even in their own homes." a high level of violence towards women in the country.
The persistence of, and increase in sexual violence against women and girls is of great concern in Swaziland. Similarly, the lack of any protection remedies for women, whose lives are at risk from gender-based violence in the family, has been a long-standing concern of organizations in the country dedicated to improving the status of women and their quality of life. The extraordinarily high prevalence of HIV infection has also created a great sense of urgency, in light of the widely accepted view internationally that gender-based violence and women’s lack of legal equality and low socioeconomic status put them at increased risk of being infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, expressed it in his speech in March 2004: “I’ve been in the Envoy job for nearly three years. If there is one constant throughout that time, a large part of which has been spent traversing the African continent, it is the thus-far irreversible vulnerability of women…gender inequality is what sustains and nurtures the virus, ultimately causing women to be infected in even greater disproportionate numbers.”
There is urgent need for the Government of Swaziland to implement reforms arising from the provisions of the new Constitution and having the effect of promoting gender equality consistent with international human rights standards.
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) refers to “Any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. In 2010 alone, SWAGAA attended to a total of 1,578 cases of sexual and gender based violence. Between January and September 2011, 892 cases of human rights violations were reported to the organization. For over a decade, SWAGAA and other civil society organizations have been lobbying for the enactment of the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence Bill, and the Children’s Welfare and Protection Bill. Enacting this bill to become law will mean acts of violence against women, children and men will no longer be viewed as normal. It is the first step towards severe punishments for perpetrators of such violations.
The struggle continues…
By Nokwazi Nxumalo
. U.S. Department of State, Diplomacy in Action; 2010 Human Rights Report: Swaziland April 8, 2011. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154372.htm. Accessed: 10 March 2015.
. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Knowledge and Perceptions of Parents Regarding Child Sexual Abuse in Botswana and Swaziland; http://www.pediatricnursing.org/article/S0882-5963(05)00303-9/abstract. Accessed: 10 March 2015.
The recent purchase of a E2.2Million BMW 7 series for Prince Omari is a typically blatant display of corruption and shameless flaunting of ill gotten wealth.
While the German company BMW might be very pleased with the custom of King Mswati lll, this is yet another royal splurge at the expense of the taxpayer.
A large proportion of people, taxpaying or not, live in abject poverty in Swaziland. From a population of 1.2million, 70% are at or below the national poverty line.
In 2011 the government announced that grandmothers would not receive their pensions due to "limited resources".
The amount of the stipend is only US$73 (£45) per three-month period, but the majority of elderly live in chronic poverty and the suspension of the pensions will hinder their ability to purchase food, medicines and care for their grandchildren.
Despite this, King Mswati has increased his annual household budget for 2014 to $61 million.
The King owns a private jet, a fleet of luxury cars and has a fortune estimated at $100 million.
With the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, at 25% ,leaving thousands of orphans and the aforementioned poverty, it is wholly shameful that at least some of this wealth is not used to alleviate the suffering of the Kings subjects.
On Monday, the 19th of January 2015, the Swazi nation woke up to an order by King Mswati’s regime that schools which were meant to reopen on the 20th of January, should remain closed and to reopen on the 27th of January due to ongoing national duties (i.e. until the king's fields are weeded).
The order by King Mswati’s regime, that schools must remain closed until the kings field are weeded, is a serious promotion of child labour, and a serious violation - virtually the same as to denying learners right to education - it is wrong for children to miss out on school over a man’s field weeded ceremony. It is absolutely a disgrace how the government of Swaziland fails to prioritize important issues… whatever Mswati III commands takes priority over anything else. How can weeding the king's fields be more important than education, this is seriously a mock of our education system.
Sadly education in Swaziland is taken for granted, the Mswati regime constantly neglects the education system, by treating certain branches of its services far better than others, resources meant to improve the education system are diverted to sustain parasitic royal rule.
Schools in Swaziland are poorly equipped, school children hardly have access to books, school fees set up by the government are soaring thus preventing many children from attending school, because parents cannot afford to pay these high fees. Education is the right for every child, we therefore call on the Mswati regime to provide quality free education for all learners in Swaziland and to put an end to child labour.
By: Delisile Fiona Kunene