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Yesterday, the country woke up to news of a proposed mutilation of the long awaited Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill. A Parliament Portfolio Committee has recommended the removal of four clauses that it sees as undermining Swazi culture. These include stalking, abduction, flashing and incest.

This matter was due for debate yesterday evening, however, the debate was a non-starter. We are hopeful though that  when it is eventually debated, common sense will prevail and the protection of life will supersede all else. Our women, who dominated the polling stations to vote the current MPs into their positions are devastated by the latest development – and rightly so. Sadly they have no right of recall. It was taken away from them despite majority submissions to have it included in the Constitution. Now their input into the Sexual Offences Bill is about to suffer the same fate.

The Bill provides for the protection of Swazi culture in the clauses they want deleted, so why the fuss? In its recommendations, the Portfolio Committee argues that victims could seek redress in courts on the issues contained in the clauses they want scrapped.
Well the same argument can be put to the MPs, that anybody charged under the said clauses can put their case before the courts, which are competent enough to decide what is cultural and what is not.

If MPs go ahead with this, they ought to be aware that they are just about to officially brand Swazi culture as a tool to suppress women and girls in this country. This is not an image we wish for ourselves when the world is pushing aggressively for gender equality and the protection for women and girls.

We urge the MPs to apply themselves adequately and not forget that at least 140 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 144 have laws on sexual harassment according to UN statistics. Swaziland is definitely not one of them. Why? There are also reportedly 37 countries that still exempt rape perpetrators from prosecution when they are married to or subsequently marry the victim. Do we want to place our beautiful country among these? Of course not!

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