Swaziland is a patriarchal society and gender relations in the Kingdom of Swaziland are not balanced. Men are favoured in most spheres of life. Culturally, women are minors and this minority is reinforced by marriage under both customary and common law. The decision-making vests with on the males at family, community, and national levels. Decisions pertaining to the number of children and use of contraceptives are largely made by men. Despite the high level of HIV/AIDS, women still have to negotiate with their spouses on the use of condoms. There is under-representation of women in decision-making structures.
Traditionally, women cannot become chiefs (traditional leaders): all chiefs are males, women only act in regency until the rightful male heir is installed. At schools, there is a discriminatory tendency of expelling pregnant girls and not affording them the opportunity to continue with their education while the boys or men who impregnate the girls go unpunished. This result is girls failing to compete with their male counterparts. This leads to more unemployed women and an over-representation of women in low-paid jobs. Women cannot access land (on Swazi Nation Land) in their own rights unless assisted by male relatives. During mourning, women are also subjected to a number of restrictions which limit their social interaction and productivity.
Gender Based Violence (GBV)
While GBV applies to women and men, to girls and boys, the focus remains on tackling violence against women and girls since they are overwhelmingly affected (UNFPA, 2008-2011:7). UNFPA is also gravely concerned about sexual abuse of adolescent boys and the exploitation of young men. Women’s high risk and suffering exacerbated consequences as compared with what men endure. As a result of gender discrimination and women’s lower socio-economic status, women have fewer options and fewer resources at their disposal to avoid or escape abusive situations and to seek justice.
Women suffer sexual reproductive health (SRH) consequences including forced and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and resulting in deaths, traumatic fistula and higher risks of sexually transmitted infections and HIV issues. It was found, after phone interviews, that most women have no access to SRH facilities and they are scared to say ‘no’ or reveal their HIV status to their spouses for fear of rejection and violence. Abortion is unlawful, according to the Constitution, Section 15 (5), as well as being frowned upon in the country; though it may be allowed as the Constitution has a provision for abortion under certain conditions: medical grounds, where the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or unlawful sexual intercourse with mentally retarded female.
It appears that within SADC countries, Swaziland is trailing behind in terms of GBV or domestic violence legislation. Recently, there are positive developments following the enactment of the People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act, 2009; and the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill is being debated. However, there still remains a challenge to sensitise the public on the existence of such legislation and bill in view of resistance on cultural grounds and gender stereotypes.
Swaziland has two active and often competing legal systems: the Roman-Dutch Law and Swazi Law and Custom. The Swazi Law and Custom is unwritten and clashes with the principles of the received Roman Dutch Law. With the support of the UNDP, Government has promised to codify Swazi Law and Custom. However the codification is yet to be made public.
The country’s legislation requires urgent reform. This will ensure that that the country’s laws are compatible with the Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and other regional and international human rights instruments.
Swaziland adopted its Constitution in 2005, yet most laws are not compatible with this ‘supreme law’. Most laws are also not compatible with CEDAW, SADC Gender and Development (GAD), and the Women Protocols on African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
The following pieces of legislation were identified as some of the laws that undermine women’s socio-economic status, and therefore require urgent review to meet today’s times:
- Administration of Estates 1902, which subjects the masses to unnecessary hardship due to its obsoleteness as a result of the highest death rate in our history in view of HIV/AIDS pandemic. The pace of processing the estates is painfully slow and grieving beneficiaries (most of whom are women and children) end up giving up increasing the level of poverty. The interest rate on the estate moneys was last reviewed in 1973.
- Marriages Act 1964, which gives the marital power to men, and therefore and women cannot pass citizenship to their children or and husbands. Women have minority status. Women have no legal capacity to enter into contracts. For example, women cannot take out loans without the assistance of their male relatives. Female identity is at risk. Women may lose esteem and this negatively impacts on women who are professionals.
- Deeds Registry Act 1968, which says women married in community of property cannot register.
The Gender Consortium
Swaziland, similar to the rest of the world, faces the challenge of persistent inequalities between men and women. This situation of inequality persists despite measures taken at national and international levels.
Before 1995, in Swaziland, a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) tried to address these inequalities, but their efforts were fragmented and had a very little impact. NGOs working to reduce gender inequality saw the need to strengthen their efforts through collaboration. This Gender Consortium, therefore, was established in 1995.
The Consortium is composed of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are affiliated to the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) and our key partners – the United Nations Theme Group and the Gender and Family Unit.
Composition of Gender Consortium
The Coordinating Assembly of NGOs (CANGO) is responsible for convening meetings of the Consortium and for the coordination of all its activities. There is a Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson, who are elected from the members of the Consortium. Meetings are held at least once a quarter.
2. Vision of Gender Consortium
A Swaziland where men and women equally co-exist without any form of discrimination, oppression and / or undue advantage based on their sex.
3. Mission of Gender Consortium
The Gender Consortium is a network that seeks to create an enabling environment aimed at creating equal opportunities and services for men, women, girls, and boys.
4. Guiding principles
- Good governance
- Ethics including transparency and accountability
- High standard of professionalism
- Respect of Human Rights
5. Impact Level Result
Conducive legislative, policy, programming and social environment for realisation of women’s rights as human rights and meaningful involvement of women in decision making at all levels by 2015.
1. Legal reforms to be gender responsive
2. Inclusion of women in decision making positions in Swaziland
3. Minority status of women
4. Gender Based Violence (GBV)
5. Gender mainstreaming by other critical sectors such as HIV and AIDS, Climate Change, Budgeting
6. Strengthen institutional capacity of Consortia to deliver on its mandate
6. Strategic Outcomes, Objectives, Outputs, and Strategies
6.1 Outcome: reviewed and enacted gender responsive legislation by 2015
Objective: to lobby and advocate for review and enactment of gender responsive legislations including the Marriage Act, Deeds Act, Administration of Estates, and Sexual Offences Bill.
- Desk reviews of existing legislation gaps
- Preparation of policy papers / briefs / bulletins
- Dialogues with strategic institutions, e.g. parliament, relevant ministries
- Advocacy campaigns
6.2 Outcome: increased number of women in decision making positions by 2015
Objective: Advocate for inclusion of women in decision making positions including politics, traditional structures, government, the private sector, local government
- Formative research to determine societal perceptions / attitudes toward women in decision making positions
- Audit on representation of women at various levels
- Advocacy campaigns at community and national levels
- Engaging the media for popularisation of the meaningful participation
- Formation of a mentoring and monitoring mechanism for holding women in decision making positions accountable
6.3 Outcome: improved policies and programmes to address the minority status of women by 2015
Objective: to promote evidence-based dialogue on minority status of women and its impact on rights of women in Swaziland to inform policies, programme reforms in Swaziland by 2015
- Desk review on existing policies to determine gaps
- Dialogues for lobbying policy makers
- Community dialogues at all levels to challenge the subordination of women and girls
- Consolidation of findings from dialogues to inform programming and review of legislation
- Development clear, measurable implementation modalities for the policies and programmes
- Engaging, educating and monitoring the media on positive reporting about women, e.g. as intellectual beings
6.4 Outcome: incidence of GBV in Swaziland reduced by half by 2015
Objective: to advocate for eradication of Gender Based Violence against women and girls in Swaziland in 2015
- Advocacy campaigns for enactment of the SODV Bill
- Implementation of the SODV Legislation
- Community based awareness campaigns on GBV and the SODV
- Social mobilisation of women in civil society to call for an end to GBV
- Responsiveness to negative reporting or sensationalisation by the media
6.5 Outcome: gender mainstreamed in service delivery focused community based traditional structures by 2015
Objective: to promote gender mainstreaming in service delivery community based traditional structures by 2015
- Provision of tools for gender mainstreaming e.g. manuals, checklist including needs of women and girls with disabilities
- Provision of technical support for gender mainstreaming
- Community traditional structure dialogues
6.6 Outcome: improved institutional capacity of the gender consortium for coordination and gender focused programming by 2015
Objective: to strengthen institutional capacity of the Gender Consortium coordinate activities, and monitor and evaluate its impact for effective delivery of its mandate
- Programming for women with disabilities by all Gender Consortium member organisations
- Resource mobilization
- Implementation of the strategic plan
- Structured trainings, meetings, workshops
- Set research agenda
- Dissemination and use of evidence to inform programming
- Investment in partnerships e.g. Gender and Family Issues Unit, Development partners etc
- Monitoring and evaluation