Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Violence Against Women & Girls On The Increase In Swaziland

As Swaziland launched it's annual campaign of "16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" on 25th November 2011, it is quite discouraging to learn that violence against women and girls is on the increase in the Kingdom.  Statistics say that 13 cases of violence against women and girls are reported each week in a country of 1.2 million people.

The observations by the NGO Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGGA) is that the increase can be attributed to the fact that Swaziland is generally becoming a more violent society and that previously cases of abuse and violence were under-reported.  Another major stumbling-block is that the law in Swaziland has not caught up to international standards in terms of defining abuse and also criminalising some acts of violence.  Hlobisile Dlamini-Shongwe of SWAGGA says

"There are number of loopholes regarding laws on violence in the country. Currently we have rape defined by the law as an unlawful sexual encounter with a woman and this leaves out boys who have been sodomised. We have a law dating back to 1920 where a case of a woman who has been battered by her husband is considered common assault which is a very minor offence.

Given the rate at which such cases happen, we feel they should be moved to a higher level. According to the law, a child's statement is not enough evidence in cases of rape, there must be an adult who has witnessed this act. We feel a child's statement is enough to convict a perpetrator.

In the era of HIV/AIDS, there is still no law in Swaziland that deals with marital rape yet we know that it's difficult for women to negotiate for safe sex yet there is no law which a woman would use against her husband who has raped her. This makes women to be even more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS."

In a society characterised by high unemployment, poverty and high prevalence of HIV, social depression is one way to explain the increase in violence against women and girls.  It is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of people are unwilling to take a stand against social issues as they spill over to a political domain, which many Swazis are not willing to be seen to take a stand against.  Though Swaziland has finally approved the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill in October 2011, enforcement will be the challenge as those meant to enforce the law still hold patriarchal views that have existed for centuries that tend to safeguard those committing violence against women and girls.

Hlobisile continues to say 
"There is a strong link between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS. In all the eight years that I've worked for SWAGAA I've never come across a rape case where the perpetrator has used a condom. Most women are physically abused and they fail to negotiate for safe sex and, what's worse, marital rape is not a crime in Swaziland."

 The problem of gender violence has to be dealt with in conjunction with gender equality.  In a society where women have no voice and no power, it is important that as Swaziland inevitably moves towards a democracy it ensures that it creates an engendered society that will ensure women are empowered and protected by law.

A key element for the success of bringing gender equality in Swaziland is to implement gender mainstreaming so that issues of gender equality are always an issue.  Gender mainstreaming is defined as 
 "Mainstreaming a gender perspective is the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality."

Basic Principles of Mainstreaming
Responsibility for implementing the mainstreaming strategy is system-wide, and rests at the highest levels within agencies, according to Carolyn Hannan, Director of the UN Division for the Advancement of Women. Other principles include:
• Adequate accountability mechanisms for monitoring progress need to be established.
• The initial identification of issues and problems across all area(s) of activity should be such that gender differences and disparities can be diagnosed.
• Assumptions that issues or problems are neutral from a gender-equality perspective should never be made.
• Gender analysis should always be carried out.
• Clear political will and allocation of adequate resources for mainstreaming, including additional financial and human resources if necessary, are important for translation of the concept into practice.
• Gender mainstreaming requires that efforts be made to broaden women's equitable participation at all levels of decision-making.
• Mainstreaming does not replace the need for targeted, women-specific policies and programmes, and positive legislation; nor does it do away with the need for gender units or focal points.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Swazis in exile?

The Swazi Diaspora Blog seeks to share, inform, challenge and sometimes incite readers but more importantly we also need to be able to learn from each other.  This Blog seeks to represent views of the diverging persuasions of Swazis, contrary to what we have been brought up to believe, we are not as homogenous as it seems looking from the outside in, and it's a positive thing to start exploring aspects of the Swazi society that are not homogenous.

Today we present an interview with a Swazi living in exile, political exile to be clear.  Yes, there are Swazis who have been fighting for what they believe every Swazi citizen deserves, even if Swazis themselves don't know it yet.  This interview does not represent the views of the SDP or the Blogger, it aims to highlight one of many Swazis living in the Diaspora that will be profiled on this site.

Mr. Bongani Masuku is a Swazi that has lived as a political exile in South Africa for over a decade.  He is the International Secretary in COSATU, meaning that he represents COSATU on all international platforms.  He is currently attending COP17 as a COSATU representative, advancing the agenda of developing countries in the fight for action to curb climate change.  He recently lost his mother, and could not attend her funeral, as he did not attend the funerals of his father and brother who passed away a few years ago; due to a warrant of his arrest should he enter Swaziland.

1. How and why did you come to consider yourself an exile? (what are the circumstances that led to you leaving Swaziland and seeking refuge in a foreign country?)

According to the UN and international law, an exile is a person whose circumstances have been proven to be life-threatening in his or her country of origin. The duty of proving it does not lie in the person him/herself, but in both the receiving country’s government and the UN system itself. In this regard, being an exile is not determined either by myself (in this particular case) or the Swaziland Government, but the country of destination or what is called the receiving country, South Africa in this case, together with UN agencies. That is why some Swazis (and other nationalities) who were trying to apply have been refused the status, on the basis that their cases wouldn’t fit the criteria set by the UN and the receiving government on what constitutes a life-threatening condition.

I am unable to divulge the exact circumstances surrounding my departure, as some are security related, but will simply say, I left SD in 1998 November following PUDEMO’s internal processes. You will recall that at that time there was the intense battle after the failed tinkhundla elections and the subsequent bombing of the Tinkhundla HQ in Mbabane where one person died. I was the President of SWAYOCO Then and as expected , SWAYOCO had played a key role in the dismal outcomes of the tinkhundla elections, which yielded a mere 13% turnout and by international standards, unrepresentative of the will of the Swazi people. The events and the bombings led the state to believe SWAYOCO was responsible and they were so desperate and eager to revenge. Let me be honest, when I was first told that I am supposed to leave for the info brought before me then, I resisted and said how dare I leav the principal theatre of struggle and go out of the country, but the facts and the events gave me no choice and I was forced to leave. It was one of the most traumatic and painful experience, because it correspond to the reality one is facing today where I cant bury the most special person in my life, my Mother.

Just ask yourself one question. Do you think Sipho Jele would still be alive if he went to exile or not? Who doubts that he was killed for his activities as a member of PUDEMO and SWAYOCO?

2. What has been the impact of your exile status on your personal and political life?

The impact has been enormous, both from the negative and positive viewpoints. Not being able to visit my country, my home, and my people is naturally a  painful thing to anyone. Not being able to directly assist my mother during her difficult days, but relying on people inside Swaziland is pain enough. What if the fact that I couldn’t bury my two brothers, my beloved father and now my mother, the person I couldn’t compare to anyone in life. Its stressful, traumatic and demanding of your courage and strength. Politically, it raised international eye brows about the reality of the situation in Swaziland. It made people challenge and ask deeper questions about the myth of a “peaceful and stable” Swaziland. It made people ask if forced silence can be equated to peace and stability or if they also mean democracy or good governance on their own. However, there is one thing critical about this situation, it is the learning from the experiences of other people all over the world, you begin to understand the world and society in a more profound way than would normally be the case. I have no doubt from the wealth of experience and knowledge gained over the years of my international work, my contribution to the development of my country would be many times over. As you encounter different parts of the world and different people, they make you appreciate what works and what doesn’t work in making a successful society. But it also develops all your mental faculties or general orientation to major issues facing humanity. I am many times different than when I left the country and have no doubt that am now better equipped to comprehend and engage with the crisis facing our country better than I was then.