24 April 2018

Swaziland: Children Who Suffer in Swaziland

News that a father in Swaziland tied his 11-year-old daughter to a house pillar and thrashed her with a pipe until she became unconscious shines a focus on the constant ill treatment of children in the kingdom.

He did it as a punishment because she had arrived late home from school.

UNICEF the global children's organisation estimates nearly nine in ten children in Swaziland suffer 'violent discipline'.

In a report of a national survey published in August 2017, UNICEF stated 'violent discipline in the home, which includes physical punishment and psychological aggression, affects more than 88 percent of all children in Swaziland.

'The study findings also reveal that sexual violence and bullying affects 38 percent and 32 percent of children in Swaziland, respectively. The study found that children experiencing one type of violence were more likely to experience other types of violence.

'One staggering statistic to emerge from the data revealed that for every girl child known to Social Welfare as having experienced sexual violence, there are an estimated 400 girls who have never received help or assistance for sexual violence.'

UNICEF reported one of the 'drivers' of violence against children was Swazi culture. It stated, 'The widely accepted notion of keeping family matters private to protect the family or community over the individual was repeatedly cited as a driver of violence and was also found to be a factor dissuading individuals from intervening when they suspect a child is abused.'

Article 29(2) of the Swaziland Constitution 2005 states 'a child shall not be subjected to abuse or torture or other cruel inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment subject to lawful and moderate chastisement for purposes of correction'. The Children's Protection and Welfare Act 2012 however provides for 'justifiable' discipline.

Corporal punishment was banned in Swazi schools by the Ministry of Education and Training in 2015, but caning continues. There are many reports from across Swaziland that pupils have been brutalised by their teachers.

In a debate in the Swazi Parliament in March 2017 members of parliament called for the cane to be brought back into schools. The MPs said the positive discipline adopted in schools was causing problems for teachers because they no longer knew how to deal with wayward pupils.

There had been 4,556 cases of 'severe corporal punishment' of children in Swaziland's schools over the previous four years, Star Africa reported in March 2016.

Corporal punishment is everywhere in Swaziland. In 2014, more than 30 girls were thrashed with a cane because they did not dance half naked in front of Swaziland's King Mswati III. They were beaten so badly some needed treatment from paramedics. The girls, described in local media as 'maidens', were expected to take part in a 'Reed Dance' at Mbangweni Royal Residence in the Shiselweni region of the kingdom.

In October 2017 it was reported the Swaziland Government was being sued for E2.5 million (US$185,000) after a child was maimed by a teacher who was dishing out corporal punishment.

In 2011, Swaziland was told by the United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review held in Geneva it should stop using corporal punishment in schools, because it violated the rights of children.

The United Nations Human Rights Periodic Review received a report jointly written by Save The Children and other groups that corporal punishment in Swazi schools was out of control. The report highlighted Mhlatane High School in northern Swaziland where it said pupils were 'tortured' in the name of punishment.

In 2005 The International Save the Children Alliance published research into Swazi children's experiences of corporal punishment.

In a survey, 20 percent of children reported being hit with a hand and 59 percent of children reported being beaten with an object at school during a two-week period. In schools, children are most often hit with the hand, sticks, canes, sjamboks and blackboard dusters.

Children reported being subjected to corporal punishment at school due to making a noise or talking in class, coming late to school, not completing work, not doing work correctly, failing tests, wearing incorrect uniform items, dropping litter, losing books or leaving them at home.

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