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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Swaziland dissent over no-sex ban
King Mswati III of Swaziland
Opposition to King Mswati's ban also comes from traditionally loyal rural areas
By Bhekie Matsebula in Mbabane

Opposition in Swaziland is growing against the controversial order by King Mswati that all teenage girls should wear red tassels as a show of their virginity and avoid shaking hands with men.

Some of the young girls I spoke to say the king is himself undermining the ban by allowing his teenage student fiancée to live at the royal palace, away from her parental home.

I suggest we should march to the palace, throw out tassels and the King should pay the fine of a cow

Teenage girl

King Mswati in August 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.

To enforce the ban, in the face of mounting unease, the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs has been holding workshops in which they have appealed to traditional leaders to take action against defiant girls.

Shooting threat

Courts, which some have described as kangaroo courts, are being established in traditional areas with the power to convict girls, and to sentence them to a mazimum three months in jail or to impose a $160 fine.

Young Swazis
Teenagers would like to see the King practice what he preaches

"We have no guarantee that the fiancée is not being touched by the king. We don't believe that he would not touch her in all of five years," said a high school student, who wanted to remain anonymous.

I was told that even the army could be drafted in to help to enforce the 33-year old King's order.

In what is being seen as real dissent against the monarchy, opposition is not only coming from girls in the urban areas but from the traditionally loyal rural areas as well.

Some parents have threatened to open fire on anybody who dared confiscate a cow as payment if their sons are found to have slept with under-aged girls.

Protest march

In September, King Mswati stunned the country by taking a 17-year-old schoolgirl as his eighth wife, in a marriage that attracted much criticism.

Now most of the teenagers I spoke to are planning to ask their leader, Lungile Ndlovu to organise a march to the royal residence to show that the king has violated his own order.

One of them said: " I suggest that if we are forced to wear the tassels we should visit Ludzidzini royal residence and throw our tassels and the King should pay the fine of a cow he imposed when he re-introduced the ban in September."

As part of the chastity ban, young women under 19 years old are also not allowed to wear trousers.

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
28 Sep 01 | Africa
Swazi king takes eighth wife
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