The alleged rape of a two-year-old child in Swaziland / eSwatini has been covered up by her family because Swazi culture does not permit it to be reported to authorities. It is another example of how culture allows adults to mistreat children, often violently.
The Swazi News reported on Saturday (12 January 2019) that the child had allegedly been raped by her grandfather but had been denied justice in the name of tibi tendlu which it said meant ‘sweeping matters under the carpet’.
The newspaper gave details of the rape allegation and added, ‘According to a source close to the minor, some family members have been threatened with death if they reported the matter which occurred in March last year.’
In 2017 a report from the University of Edinburgh, backed by the global children’s organisation UNICEF, said that children in Swaziland were subjected to extreme violence, often in their homes. It highlighted the place of tibi tendlu in covering up family secrets.
It reported, ‘The widely accepted notion of keeping family matters private to protect the family or community over the individual was repeatedly cited as a driver of violence and was also found to be a factor dissuading individuals from intervening when they suspect a child is abused.’
It added cultural norms prevented children from telling anyone about the violence they experience; kept community and family members from intervening when they saw a child being harmed; presented community and institutional barriers to professionals and others such as teachers seeking to help the child and gave the perpetrator a sense of impunity – such that they could continue abusing children without consequences.
Data from Swaziland suggested violent discipline in the home, which included physical punishment and psychological aggression, affected more than 88 percent of all children. The study findings also revealed that sexual violence and bullying affected 38 percent and 32 percent of children in Swaziland, respectively. The study found that children experiencing one type of violence were more likely to experience other types of violence. For every girl child known to Social Welfare as having experienced sexual violence, there were an estimated 400 girls who had never received help or assistance for sexual violence.
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