King Mswati III of Swaziland has told his subjects they are not allowed to divorce. 'In our culture, once you marry someone, there is no turning back,' the King said.
King Mswati, who rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch, told Swazi pastors at an Easter service held at the Engabezweni Royal Residence on Saturday (15 April 2017) marriage was covenant with God.
The Times Sunday newspaper in Swaziland reported, 'He said it was wrong for people to break agreements made with God. He said that in siSwati, there was no word for divorce.'
The newspaper reported the King's ruling comes after the office of the Attorney General drafted the Marriage Bill of 2017, which carries five grounds of divorce and if passed to law will replace the Marriage Act of 1964.
In Swaziland, women, who under traditional Swazi law are treated as children and are in effect owned by their husbands or fathers, are expected to live lives devoted to their men and families. A report on the State of the Population in Swaziland said that Swazi women were responsible for childbirth, raising the children and taking care of the entire family.
Women are expected to give their husbands sex on demand and those who refuse have been blamed for men who rape children.
A survey in Swaziland suggested four in 10 women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife because he is the head of the household.
This is not the first time that so-called 'Swazi culture' has been investigated.
The APA news agency reported in 2015 a demographic health survey called the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Comparative Report which gave a number reasons for wife-beating which included; 'if she refused to have sex with him, if she argued with him, if she went out without telling him, if she neglected the children and if she had sex with other men'.
APA reported, 'Silindelo Nkosi, the Communication and Advocacy Officer for Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said, "These beliefs of justifying abuse have increased to the worst rate resulting in more young women dying in the hands of their lovers or husbands."'
The world famous medical journal, the Lancet reported that one in three girls in Swaziland had experienced sexual violence by the age of 18, according to a study.
Sexual violence was defined as forced intercourse; coerced intercourse; attempted unwanted intercourse; unwanted touching; and forced touching.
The most common perpetrators of the first incident of sexual violence were men or boys from the girl's neighbourhood or boyfriends or husbands. Over a quarter of all incidents of sexual violence occurred in the respondent's own home, with a fifth occurring at the home of a friend, relative or neighbour.
In June 2008 it was reported that the National Democratic and Health Survey found that 40 percent of men in Swaziland said it is all right to beat women. The same year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that the status of some women in Swaziland was so low that they were practically starved at meal times, because men folk ate first and if there was not enough food for everyone, the women must go without.