Monday, May 8, 2017


Swaziland is being put under the spotlight by a United Nations group following fears that child sexual abuse and forced labour is rife in the kingdom.

The Swazi Government has failed to account for its actions in protecting children.

Swaziland ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2004 and its initial report on progress was due by 2005, but 13 years later it has failed to report. After such a long delay, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) has scheduled a review of the kingdom in the absence of report. This review will take place in July 2017.

The HRC has tabled a list of questions for the Swazi Government to answer. It believes Swaziland is ‘a country of origin, transit and destination for men, women and children trafficked for sex and forced labour’. It also says ‘forced and child labour are prevalent in the country and that orphans are particularly affected’.

In the past, King Mswati III, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has been criticised by human rights groups for exploiting forced child labour.

A report from the US State Department on Trafficking in Persons in 2013 investigated Swaziland and found children in Swaziland were being used as forced labour to tend the fields of King Mswati III.

Chiefs in rural areas who represent the monarch, ‘may coerce children and adults—through threats and intimidation—to work for the king’, the report revealed.

The report also said, ‘Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude in the cities of Mbabane and Manzini, as well as in South Africa, Mozambique, and the United States.’

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2013 also revealed, ‘Swazi boys and foreign children are forced to labor in commercial agriculture and market vending within the country.’

The report said, ‘The Government of Swaziland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.’

An earlier report in 2009 from the US State Department reported that women and children in the kingdom were bought and sold for sex, domestic servitude and forced labour. 

Mbabane and Manzini were again identified as the centres of trafficking of girls, particularly orphans, for sex.  

In 2009, the The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that a form of serfdom existed in the kingdom. The report said Swazis were forced to work without pay on projects determined by local chiefs (who are appointed by the King). These included agricultural work, soil erosion and construction and maintenance.

Swazis, seven in ten who live in abject poverty and earn less than two US dollars a day, are forced to work under the Swazi Administration Order, No. 6 of 1998, which makes it a duty of Swazis to obey orders and participate in compulsory works; participation is enforceable with severe penalties for those who refuse.

In October 2013 it was reported there were an estimated 1,302 people living in slavery in Swaziland.

The report called the Global Slavery Index 2013 and published by the Walk Free Foundation stated, ‘Modern slavery includes slavery, slavery-like practices (such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and sale or exploitation of children), human trafficking and forced labour.’

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