Supporters of three pro-democracy groups held a vigil in London to demand rights for Swazi women.
Activists from Amnesty International, Action for Southern Africa and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies held the demonstration outside the Swaziland High Commission to mark the Centenary of International Women’s Day.
They wanted to bring attention to laws in Swaziland, ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, that discriminate against women and to highlight the need for new legislation to protect and promote the rights of women.
This is even though Swaziland made international and national commitments to end discrimination against women more than five years ago, and has been given practical and financial support from the international community to reform the law.
The current status of the law reduces Swazi women to second-class citizens, and contributes to a situation in which they are disproportionately affected by poverty and HIV.
Simon Bennett, Amnesty International UK’s Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, said, ‘The current status of the law in Swaziland is such that many women are put in a vulnerable situation, facing violence and discrimination and having nowhere to turn.
‘Each day that passes due to unexplained delays in the process of reforming the relevant domestic laws is another day too long.
‘Amnesty International urges the government of the Kingdom of Swaziland to make public the process and timeline for the completion of a comprehensive law reform process to ensure that Swazi women do not continue to encounter obstacles to the enjoyment of their human rights.’