24 May 2019

Swaziland: Total of 430 Rape Cases Reported in Swaziland Over Seven Months After New Law Introduced

There were 430 cases of rape reported in Swaziland / eSwatini over seven months, new figures reveal.

They were among 2,900 cases brought under the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (SODV) that came into force in 2018.

A total of 2,068 cases of domestic violence were also recorded, a workshop for members of parliament was told. This was for the period August 2018 to March 2019.

The SODV Act was introduced into Swaziland in an attempt to clarify the law. It has proved controversial among traditionalists in the kingdom where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. The Act also makes sexual harassment, stalking and flashing illegal.

Commenting in 2018 on the SODV Act before it was passed the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said attitudes in Swaziland towards domestic violence demonstrated strong support for traditional gender roles, high levels of rape-supportive attitudes and tolerant attitudes for violence.

The ICJ said, 'For example, only 51 per cent of men have been surveyed as believing that a woman may refuse to have sexual intercourse with her husband, while 88 per cent believe a woman should obey her husband and 45 per cent believe a husband has a right to punish his wife if she does something he deems is wrong.'

Police in Swaziland have in the past been criticised for their lack of concern over rape victims. In July 2017 the Swazi Observer said rape victims reported their plight was not being treated seriously by police and often they were simply dropped off at hospital and made to find their own help. It came at a time when 1,082 rapes had been reported in Swaziland in the previous two years.

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