9 April 2018

Swaziland: Princess's 'Solution' to Marital Rape

Photo: Supplied
Senteni Masango (file photo).
opinion

Married women who do not want to be raped by their husbands should avoid sleeping in the bedroom, a senior member of the Swaziland Royal family said.

Princess Phumelele Dlamini, a Swazi Senator, made the comment at the Director of Public Prosecutor's office during a consultative meeting with the Senate Deputy Prime Minister's office portfolio committee.

The Princess, along with all other Senators in Swaziland, is not elected but appointed by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch.

The Swazi Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the King, reported on Friday (6 April 2018) that the Princess, 'said in the event a wife was not in the mood to engage in sexual activities they should not sleep in the same room as their husbands so that they don't find themselves in a tricky situation.

'She said long ago Swazi women would go back home in the event they were faced with such problems in their marital home.'

The newspaper reported her saying, 'Do not allow him to touch or play with you because he might think you are playing hard to get.'

In traditional Swazi culture women are treated as children who are owned by their menfolk (usually their husbands or fathers.) They have no legal rights.

In October 2017, four in six married women interviewed by a newspaper in Swaziland said their husbands had the right to rape them. The Swazi News reported some wives said their husbands deserved sex whenever they wanted.

The newspaper did street interviews in the Swazi capital Mbabane. The women appeared to have been chosen at random, but the newspaper did not reveal how this was done.

A Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence (SODV) Bill is stalled in the Swazi Senate because traditionalists object to four clauses about incest, unlawful stalking, abduction and flashing.

The newspaper reported, 'With or without their consent, some women believe their husbands have a right to "rape" them.'

It added, 'The reason given by four women out of the six interviewed was that part of their wifely duties was to provide sex to their husbands at all times.'

Silindelo Nkosi, the Communication and Advocacy Officer for Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), told the newspaper that forced sex within a marriage was recognised by international conventions that Swaziland had signed as a crime.

However, the SODV Bill runs counter to tradition and culture in Swaziland. The Indigenous Law and Custom of the Kingdom of Swaziland, a document from 2013 that clarifies traditional law states that rape is committed only if the woman forced is not the man's wife or lover.

It is not known how man husbands force themselves on their wives but recorded figures on rape have shown Swaziland to have the fourth highest rate of rape in the world. In 2015, a report from a US organisation ABCNewspoint stated there were 77.5 registered cases of rape among 100,000 people.

In 2015, a survey conducted in Swaziland suggested four in 10 women believed a husband was justified in beating his wife because he was the head of the household.

The APA news agency said at the time a demographic health survey called the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Comparative Report 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."'

It added, 'Clinical Psychologist Ndo Mdlalose describes this as an abusive mentality where men also tend to claim they are correcting their women by beating them.'

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 is so low that they are practically starved at meal times, because men folk eat first and if there is not enough food for everyone, the women must go without.

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