A father in Swaziland raped his 16-year-old daughter to test that she was still a virgin, a court has been told.
It is a stark illustration of the way women and girls are treated in the kingdom where traditional law allows husbands to rape their wives and condones men having sex with children.
The Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (21 May 2018) that the 46-year-old man from the Lubombo region in the east of the kingdom made a statement to a judicial officer at Siteki Magistrates Court. He said he had argued with his daughter because he thought she had been sleeping with boys. He asked if she was still a virgin and she told him she was.
The newspaper reported, 'However, the man confessed that he did not believe his daughter, hence he suggested that he should test her virginity. He unashamedly told the judicial officer that he allegedly forcefully had sexual intercourse with his daughter as a way of "testing" her virginity.'
He was charged with aggravated rape and an unrelated drug offence and remanded by Lubombo Magistrates Court until 1 June 2018.
The case came to light as Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) reported that parents were the main perpetrators of violence in the home. It said that of 332 cases reported in March and April 2018, 43 percent involved mothers or fathers. It added, females continued to be more vulnerable and exposed to abuse.
Women and girls are vulnerable in Swazi culture. In 2013, a 317-page document called The Indigenous Law and Custom of the Kingdom of Swaziland (2013) was presented to King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. It said that under Swazi Law and Custom a husband can legally rape his wife or his lover. Under Chapter 7, which addresses offences (emacala) in Swaziland, rape is said to be committed only if the woman forced is not the man's wife or lover.
In 2015, a report from a US organisation ABCNewspoint stated that Swaziland had the fourth highest rate of rape in the world. It said there were 77.5 registered cases of rape among 100,000 people.
Four in six married women interviewed in the street in Mbabane by the Swazi News in October 2017 said their husbands had the right to rape them. Some wives said their husbands deserved sex whenever they wanted.
Rape and sexual abuse of children is common in Swaziland. In 2013, Unicef reported that one in three girls in Swaziland were sexually abused, usually by a family member and often by their own fathers - 75 percent of the perpetrators of sexual violence were known to the victim.
Many men in Swaziland believed was all right to rape children if their own wives were not giving them enough sex. In 2009, men who were interviewed during the making of the State of the Swaziland Population report said they '"salivate" over children wearing skimpy dress codes because they are sexually starved in their homes.'