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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Swazi king takes eighth wife
The Monarch of Swaziland
King Mswati III's eighth bride was picked out at the annual reed dance
By Thulani Mthetwa in Mbabane

King Mswati III of Swaziland has stunned the country by taking a 17-year-old schoolgirl as his eighth wife.

A formal visit by the king to the girls' parents was made at the weekend completing the traditional wedding process, a source confirmed to the BBC.

The marriage has attracted much comment as it comes just weeks after the king imposed a five-year sex ban on young girls saying he wanted to revive the old custom of preserving a young girl's virginity as well as helping halt the spread of HIV/Aids.

Some girls told the BBC that by taking a teenage schoolgirl as his wife the king was in effect undermining his own ban.

Any man found breaking the cultural ban called "umchwasho" is either fined an animal such as a cow or will be liable to pay about $160.

Ban

The 33-year-old king picked the schoolgirl called La Masango during the annual reed dance in 1999.

She attends the Mjingo High School for Girls in the industrial city of Manzini and is in the fourth form.

Young Swazis
Teenage women are banned from having sex

Meanwhile, another fiancÚ is already being groomed for the king.

She is also a young student who has been taken from her parents' house to the royal family.

This means she no longer has to wear the traditional woven cloth of unmarried girls which distinguishes them from married women.

As part of the chastity ban, young women under 19 years old are not to shake hands with men nor wear trousers. They are also expected to wear blue and yellow tassels at all times.

The ban was last invoked in 1982 by King Mswati's father but was not enforced following his death soon afterwards.

See also:

10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Swaziland
25 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Swazi media decree
06 Nov 00 | Africa
Swazis protest at king's rule
31 Aug 00 | Africa
No new bride for Swazi king
25 Jul 01 | Africa
Swazi king bows to pressure
17 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi King sex ban
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