On March 20, 2018 the Africa Regional Director for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Arnold Tsunga, submitted a letter to Swaziland’s Senate urging senators to immediately ratify the Sexual Offenses and Domestic Violence (SODV) Bill. This came shortly after a workshop SWAGAA hosted in conjunction with Women in Law Southern Africa – Swaziland (WILSA). The workshop explored issues of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in Swaziland and how we can improve accountability mechanisms to ensure perpetrators are properly punished, as well as how we can better address retribution for survivors of SGBV.
“[E]nactment of the Bill is required of the Kingdom of Swaziland under its regional and international human rights law obligations to criminalize and sanction the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.”
From this workshop, participants gained a better understanding as to how we can leverage the work of international institutions, like the ICJ and United Nations, to push for legislative change. There are many different avenues for us as human rights defenders and civil society organizations to engage the international community and pressure our government to ratify the SODV Bill.
In the letter, Tsunga writes:
“[E]nactment of the Bill is required of the Kingdom of Swaziland under its regional and international human rights law obligations to criminalize and sanction the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence. Compliance with those obligations is reinforced by His Majesty’s Vision 2022, the aims and targets of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”
The letter goes on to reiterate that Swaziland is a signatory to multiple international and regional treaties that require the government to make legitimate and concerted efforts to reduce gender-based violence and sexual assault in our country.
Over the years, SWAGAA has been definitive in our belief that the SODV Bill is absolutely necessary for our country to end its culture of violence and impunity, which all too often leaves its worst marks on women and children. It is also long overdue.