SWAGAA’S VOICE IN A STORY THAT APPEARED IN TIMES OF SWAZILAND JAN. 18th, 2013 http://www.times.co.sz/News/83642.html
The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGGA) has said abducting young girls for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with them is a crime and cannot be cloaked under the guise of ‘traditional marriage’.The organisation was reacting to a story that appeared in this publication yesterday, where a 21- year-old man abducted a 15- year-old girl for the purpose of traditionally marrying her.
Mfanufikile Dlamini, of Maphalaleni, was arrested and charged for abducting the girl with intent to have sexual intercourse with her or to marry her. He, on Wednesday, appeared before Mbabane Magistrate Phathaphatha Mdluli, who cautioned and discharged him.
Dlamini claimed he was preparing to marry the young girl and had already introduced her to his parents.
SWAGAA Communications Officer, Maureen Littlejohn, said although traditionalists such as acting Ludzidzini Governor, Timothy Velabo Mtetwa, have said underage girls can traditionally marry as long as they and their parents have agreed, this notion was highly disturbing.
“Swazi law states it is illegal to engage in sexual relationships with girls under the age of 16 (Girls And Women’s Protection Act of 1920).
“What is most disturbing is the fact that most of these ‘marriages’ are forced, with the young girls having little or no say in being married to much older men. “The situation is often forced because either the family wants to receive payment or, if sexual relations have occurred (usually forced upon the girl), the family wants to save face.”
She said they have read many tragic stories in the newspapers recently involving these types of marriages; from girls being forced to marry after being raped, to getting pregnant and dropping out of school as well as attempting suicide.
Littlejohn said what these girls were enduring in the name of ‘traditional marriage’ was a human rights violation.
She said Swaziland signed the Human Rights Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 received assent from King Mswati III to protect the lives and dignity of all children in Swaziland.
“Protecting young Swazi girls from traditional marriages that they don’t want is a matter of principle. It is not a complicated legal issue, but is simply a matter of upholding human rights and Swazi law,” she said.
HERE ARE SOME FACTS THAT THE SWAGAA LEGAL DEPARTMENT PUT TOGETHER…
Is early or forced marriage legal?
Marriage by definition is a formalised, binding partnership between consenting adults. An early or forced marriage however refers to the marriage a child, usually someone under 18. Although the Marriage Act, 1964 stipulates the minimum age for a civil rites marriage, there is no corresponding provision for a customary marriage. Unfortunately in Swaziland there is a prevalent culture of young girls being forced into marriage, usually in terms of Swazi Law and Custom.
According to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – marriage before the age of 18 shouldn’t be allowed since children don’t have the ‘full maturity and capacity to act.’ The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.’ Where one of the parties getting married is under 18, consent cannot always be assumed to be ‘free and full.’ There are many reasons why girls are forced into marriage in Swaziland. These may include: gender inequality – women and girls often occupy a lower status as a result of social and cultural traditions, attitudes, beliefs that deny them their rights and stifle their ability to play an equal role in their homes and communities.
• Poverty – in families on a low income, girls may be viewed as an economic burden. The perception of girls’ potential to earn an income as comparatively poor pushes girls out of their homes and into marriage
• Negative traditional or religious practices – such as the importance attributed to preserving family ‘honour’ usually where the girl child has fallen pregnant before marriage or whilst at school. There is a belief that marriage safeguards against ‘immoral’ or ‘inappropriate behaviour’ which results in parents pushing their daughters into marriage well before they are ready. A lot of it, though, is due to the failure to enforce laws. Sometimes families are not even aware they are breaking the law. In some countries early marriage is so prevalent, prosecutions are seldom brought
What are the consequences of early and forced marriage?
Early and forced marriage further drives girls into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. They are likely to experience:
• violence, abuse and forced sexual relations – women who marry younger are more likely to be beaten and to believe that husbands can justify it
• poor sexual and reproductive health – young married girls are more likely to contract HIV than their unmarried counterparts because of their greater sexual exposure, often with an older husband who by virtue of his age is more at risk of being HIV positive
• illiteracy and lack of education – girls tend to drop out of school shortly before or when they get married. There is a commonplace view that once a girl is married she has crossed the threshold into adulthood and no longer needs an education.
Getting and keeping girls in school may be one of the best ways to foster later, consensual marriage, while also contributing the delayed sexual initiation, lower rates of HIV and AIDs and greater gender equality.
Swaziland is a signatory to many of the conventions that are relevant to forced and early marriage. The Child Protection and Welfare Act of 2012 also provides that a child has a right to refuse to be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom or practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life. SWAGAA calls for the proper enforcement of such provisions in Swaziland to ensure that the rights, dignity of every child is safeguarded and girls can also reach their potential in life