AD235: Property rights, domestic roles still question marks amid strong support for gender equity in eSwatini

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Sipho Kunene

The government of the Kingdom of eSwatini recognizes gender inequality as an impediment to sustainable national development and has backed its constitutional guarantees of equality with a number of statutes, policies, and strategies. These include its 2004 ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (United Nations, 2012), its National Gender Policy (2010), and its 2018 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill (Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, 2018).

Despite these efforts, women’s rights continue to be a challenging issue in eSwatini. According to the 2014 Swaziland Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, one in five women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances (Central Statistical Office and UNICEF, 2016). Women hold only four seats (6%) in Parliament, a dramatic decline from 22% after the 2008 elections (Genderlinks, 2013).

The United Nations in Swaziland (2018) notes that “violence and abuse are a major development concern in eSwatini, profoundly affecting women and children”: About one in three women experienced some form of sexual violence as a child, and one in four experienced other forms of physical violence as a child.

Given these challenges, what are ordinary citizens’ views on gender equality? Based on findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey in eSwatini, most citizens applaud the government’s efforts to promote women’s rights and opportunities and believe that men and women in eSwatini have equal access to education and gainful employment. But only half say women have an equal chance to own and inherit land, and most citizens still feel that it’s better for a woman, rather than a man, to be in charge of the home and the children.