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Kwendzisa is an offence

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MBABANE- Swazi men who continue to marry underage girls through the age-old Swazi custom kwendzisa will now be breaking the law.

Kwendzisa is a process where the parent or guardian marries off a girl child to an adult male without her consent.

Though the Act does not stipulate a specific fine or jail term for committing the offence, offenders will be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding the monetary jurisdiction of a magistrate or to an appropriate term of imprisonment.

The jurisdiction of a magistrate is E10 000 for criminal matters.

This is according to the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 which was endorsed by His Majesty King III last Friday.

The Act clearly states that children have the right to refuse to be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom and other traditional practices which are likely to negatively affect them.

A child, according to the Act, is a person under the age of 18.

In the past there was no law stopping 15-year-olds from marrying traditionally despite the Girls’ Protection Act of 1920 which made it illegal to have sex with girls under the age of 16.

The law states that all practices which are likely to affect the child’s life, health, welfare, dignity or physical, emotional, psychological, mental and intellectual development is illegal.

This act will come into force on a date the Minister of Justice and Constitutional affairs may fix by notice in the form of a gazette.

The minister may also fix different dates for the coming into effect of different parts or sections of the gazette.

When the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) announced endorsement of the Act by the King, he said, Swaziland hoped to make giant improvements from being one of the lowest ranking countries in terms of child friendliness and protection of their rights.

Currently, Swaziland ranks number 45 out of 60 countries, according to the international ratings of children’s friendliness and rights protection report.

Sugar daddies could face E20 000 fine

MBABANE - Sugar daddies who lure young girls into sexual relationships with money and other lavish extras will no longer have it easy.

Any person, parent or guardian who takes a child without appropriate consent, whether within or outside Swaziland will be fined E20 000 or 20 years imprisonment.

This is according to the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 which was endorsed by His Majesty King III last Friday.

The Act states that: "A person has lawful custody of a child under this section if he has been conferred custody of the child by virtue of any law or by order of the children’s court or any other court".

Save the Children Communications Officer, Senelile Khumalo, lauded the enactment of the Children’s Act.

"The King has assented to the Bill into an Act at a time when we have been witnessing escalating numbers of children who are being abused in different ways. Our country will now be reclassified as child friendly because of the protective legislative environment that it has provided to its children. This will definitely be a remarkable year for children and it will bring smiles to their faces," said Khumalo.

We may ask for review of Act in future, says TV


MBABANE - Staunch traditionalist, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, said they would apply for review of the newly enacted Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012, if it was felt to collide with Swazi customs and traditions.

However, Mtetwa who is also the acting Ludzidzini Governor emphasised that they would abide by the law, until such time when the Act became a significant hindrance to certain Swazi customs.

"For now, we will abide by the order as stated in the new legislation. However, when the need arises in future, we will not resist applying for a review," noted Mtetwa.

The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) applauded endorsement of the Act by the King.

"Swaziland is signatory to human rights-based conventions which clearly outline basic human rights and is a positive step towards protecting them from potential abusers.

This is a real triumph since civil society in Swaziland has been advocating diligently, for the passing of this maximum legal protection for many years," noted SWAGAA Communications Officer Maureen Littlejohn.

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