Monday, June 17, 2019

Swazi police ‘force boy, 6, to strip and illegally thrash his naked buttocks’

Community police in Swaziland / eSwatini illegally forced a six-year-old boy to strip and then thrashed him on the naked buttocks after he was accused of stealing a cellphone from a schoolteacher.

It was one of a long list of cases where community police have taken the law into their own hands.

The latest case happened at Gundvwini in the Manzini region, the Times of Swaziland reported on Monday (17 June 2019).

The newspaper reported the aunt of the boy said he had been thrashed by a community police member.  It reported, ‘She said the pupil informed her that he had been taken to the mountains and had his private parts squeezed before being ordered to undress. After undressing, she said Simo was allegedly thrashed a number of times with a stick on his bare buttocks.’

The community police operate in rural Swaziland and are supervised by traditional chiefs who are local representatives of King Mswati III, Swaziland’s absolute monarch. They have the authority to arrest suspects concerning minor offenses for trial by an inner council within the chiefdom. For serious offenses suspects should be handed over to the official police for further investigations. 

There have been a number of cases reported by media in Swaziland where community police have acted illegally. In June 2018 five community police officers at Ngoloweni in Sandleni attacked a man described as ‘mentally disturbed’ and beat him close to death and set his genitals on fire. They suspected the 44-year-old man had attempted to rape a girl aged six.

In April 2018 it was reported that two community police officers at Malindza stripped a man naked, tied him to a tree and flogged his bare buttocks with sticks until they bled profusely. They had accused him of stealing pots from his grandfather’s house.

In March 2018 a court heard  that three community policemen from Dvokolwako gang-raped a 17-year-old schoolgirl at knifepoint and forced her boyfriend to watch. One of them recorded it on his cellphone. The teenager was in her school uniform while she and her boyfriend walked to a river after a school athletics competition. The community policemen told them they were on patrol to make sure none of the pupils committed any offences during the athletics competition.

In 2014 three Malindza community police beat to death a mentally challenged man who had escaped from the National Psychiatric Centre.  

In 2011 community police in Kwaluseni reportedly threatened to murder democracy activist Musa Ngubeni if he was released on bail pending trial on explosive offences. Residents accused the community police in the area of being involved in criminal activities. 

See also

Police beat man close to death

Police gang-rape schoolgirl

Community police banish gay men

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Time for Swaziland to follow Botswana’s lead and decriminalise gay sex

Swaziland should follow the example of its near-neighbour Botswana and decriminalise gay sex.

The kingdom, also known as eSwatini, has much in common with Botswana. Both were protectorates of Great Britain and have laws relating to homosexuality dating back to that time. They became independent in the 1960s. Both countries have small but active fundamentalist Christian groups that today demonise LGBT people; the media largely ignore them and when they do report they are usually antagonistic. Both countries want people to believe that homosexuality is in some way ‘un-African’. Nevertheless, both want to believe that they are modern societies. Swaziland aims to become a ‘First-World’ country by 2022.

The Botswana High Court on Tuesday (11 June 2019) unanimously ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality. Judge Michael Elburu said, ‘Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized.’

According to a BBC report, he added laws banning gay sex were ‘discriminatory’. He also said, ‘Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one’s personality.’

The Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported the court said, ‘Homosexuality is not unAfrican, but it is one other way Africans identify but have been repressed for many years.’

Commenting on the ruling, United Nations Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, said, ‘Criminalising homosexuality and other forms of sexual and gender diversity is one of the root causes of grave and pervasive human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It also violates international human rights law.’

He said legal provisions banning homosexuality were often remnants of colonial laws.

He added, ‘Countries around the world that still criminalise homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation and gender identity must, without exception, take note of this recent advance in Botswana, which joins India and Angola in definitely abandoning this odious form of discrimination. All countries in which homosexuality or any other form of gender diversity remain criminalised must examine their legal frameworks in order to become fully compliant with international human rights law.’

The main difference between Botswana and Swaziland is that Botswana is a multi-party democracy and Swaziland is ruled by an absolute monarch King Mswati III, who has in the past reportedly said homosexuality is ‘satanic’. Political parties are banned from taking part in elections in Swaziland and there is very little opportunity for people in the kingdom to discuss how they might change the way they live.

Swaziland has a poor record on LGBT rights. In May 2016, Rock of Hope, which campaigns for equality in Swaziland, reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on Swaziland that laws, social stigma and prejudice prevented LGBT organisations from operating freely.

The report, presented jointly with three South African-based organisations, stated, ‘In Swaziland sexual health rights of LGBT are not protected. There is inequality in the access to general health care, gender affirming health care as opposed to sex affirming health care and sexual reproductive health care and rights of these persons. HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care services continue to be hetero-normative in nature only providing for specific care for men born as male and women born as female, thereby leaving out trans men and women as an unprotected population which continues to render the state’s efforts at addressing the spread and incidence of HIV within general society futile.’

The report added, ‘LGBTs are discriminated and condemned openly by society. This is manifest in negative statements uttered by influential people in society e.g., religious, traditional and political leaders. Traditionalists and conservative Christians view LGBTs as against Swazi tradition and religion. There have been several incidents where traditionalists and religious leaders have issued negative statements about lesbians.   

‘Human rights abuses and violations against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex population continue to go undocumented, unreported, unprosecuted and not addressed.’

It added, ‘There is no legislation recognizing LGBTs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity and as a result LGBT cannot be open about their orientation or gender identity for fear of rejection and discrimination.’

There are attempts to register the first LGBT group in Swaziland and on 22 June 2019 the second annual Pride parade is due to take place in the kingdom.

Richard Rooney

See also

Attempt to register first LGBTI group in Swaziland as preparations for second Pride parade underway

LGBT Pride film shows what it’s like to live with prejudice and ignorance in Swaziland

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

HIV drugs not available across Swaziland as health crisis deepens

Drugs to treat HIV infection are not available in most hospitals and clinics across Swaziland / eSwatini as the public health systems sinks further into crisis.

Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. As of 2017, 27 percent of the population, or 210,000 people, were infected. There were reportedly 7,000 new infections in that year.

The drugs known as antiretrovirals (ARVs) have been out of stock in many places for at least a month, the Times of Swaziland reported on Wednesday (12 June 2019).

It said the shortage affected ‘most public health institutions’. It added, the shortage also affected some private health facilities. It said the shortage was countywide and patients had been told to seek alternative suppliers.

Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM), Manzini, is one hospital that still has supplies of the drugs. The Times reported, ‘Sources at the RFM Hospital have revealed that there were currently unbelievable queues for ARVs because of the shortage at other health centres.’

Swaziland’s health system is in meltdown mainly because the government, which is not elected but appointed by absolute monarch King Mswati III, has not paid suppliers.

Medicines of all sorts have run out in public hospitals and health clinics across Swaziland. Local media reported in the past that many people, including children, have died as a result.
Hospital equipment, including at intensive-care units, has not been maintained and cannot be used. In September 2018 it was reported Mbabane Government Hospital was unable to feed its patients because it had no money. There are 500 beds at the hospital. Hlatikhulu Government Hospital faced a similar problem in February 2019. 

In June 2018 it was revealed there were only 12 working public ambulances in the whole of Swaziland because the government failed to maintain them. It had bought no new ambulances since 2013.

See also

Swaziland health crisis getting worse as budgets cut. Rural areas most affected

Medicine shortage: five die

Report: patients die as Swaziland government hospital runs out of cash