Children with autism in Swaziland are often locked and hidden away at home because their parents think they are a bad omen.
People with autism are considered ‘mentally retarded,’ which means they do not get proper medical, psychological and physiological help.
Autism Swaziland Director Tryphinah Mvubu said this meant people with Autism were often excluded from social services and kept away from the public by their parents in fear of embarrassment.
The Swazi Observer newspaper (5 April 2017) reported her saying, ‘Some parents refuse to accept children with this condition as this disorder is considered to be a bad omen, hence they are locked in the house day in and day out so they cannot be seen by members of the community. They are so stigmatised to an extent that in some cases they are not even counted as members of the family.’
In July 2016, it was reported in local media that two disabled orphan children in Swaziland had been hidden from the world after a government official told their family it would harm the image of the kingdom if people knew of their condition.
It was reported that the two children aged 16 and eight might be suffering from polio. It was said they had not walked since they were born and had shrunk muscles and could only crawl. They both cannot talk.
The abandonment of the children is one of many examples of poor treatment of people with disabilities in Swaziland.
A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.
‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’
It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.
‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’
DISABLED PEOPLE ‘TREATED LIKE ANIMALS’