She was a Swazi girl who had everything going for her. Not only does Daddy occupy one of the highest offices of the land, but this Deputy Prime Minister’s daughter had a nice little diplomatic career going for herself in Brussels. Yes, Philile Masuku had everything going for her, until she made a fatal mistake: she got married. The problem is, her husband is not Swazi and that, according to Swazi law, could cost her job.
Welcome to Swaziland where women rights are virtually nonexistent. I am talking not only of their rights under the law, but also their vulnerability to domestic abuse and HIV infection. Nearly half of women aged 25 to 29 have HIV! One senior UN consultant who’d spent her whole life travelling around the world advising on gender issues said the place of women in Swazi society was the worst she’d ever seen.
RATHER STATE-LESS THAN NON-SWAZI
Women are considered minors under the law, just one step above actual children in terms of inheritance rights etc. This can lead to ridiculous situations such as the plight of Philile the diplomat. However I also know a woman who was born in Swaziland, lives in Swaziland and intends bringing her children up here. Only, technically speaking, she is no longer Swazi. Again, her crime was marrying a Brit. Hubby likes Swaziland and wants to stay but, by marrying him this woman has forfeited her right to citizenship. This puts her in an awkward situation because they don’t intend settling in the UK or getting her British Citizenship. I dread to think what might happen if the marriage goes South. She will be, de-facto, a state-less person. Given that Swaziland is losing its women (in case you paid attention to that rather scary HIV infection rate figure I gave you), this attitude boggles the mind.
MEN WEAR THE PANTS
Just in case there was any doubt who wears the pants in this society, women are actually banned from wearing them in government offices. That’s right – they must wear skirts. The reason, say men, is that trousers emphasise a woman’s physique (I believe they may be trying to refer to camel toe here but I can’t be sure) and that’s just too distracting. Enter another conundrum – women in pants cannot enter the offices of the Human Rights commission. So, even if a trousers-wearing woman wanted to argue for her right to wear what she liked, she couldn’t get in.
Seriously though, check out this awesome collection of photos (by someone else unfortunately) that I think, sum up what girls and women live on a day to day basis