On March 20, 2018 the Africa Regional Director for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Arnold Tsunga, submitted a letter to eSwatini’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 eSwatini, how we can improve accountability mechanisms to ensure perpetrators are properly punished and 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 eSwatini 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.
In May, the ICJ published a report entitled Achieving Justice for Gross Human Rights Violations in Swaziland: Key Challenges, which outlines six areas of focus:
1. General human rights situation in eSwatini
2. Sexual and gender-based violence
3. Detention and treatment of persons denied of liberty
4. The weaponization of the laws as means of suppressing political opponents and human rights defenders
5. Violation of economic, social and cultural rights, focusing on land and property rights
6. Justice sector institutions and Human Rights Commission
Sexual and gender-based violence is prioritized within this report to highlight the urgency of the current situation and the failure of the state to address this issue. Enacting the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence bill is the first step needed to begin this process.
Over the years, SWAGAA has been definitive in our belief that the enactment of 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.
Did you know?
eSwatini is party to the following international, regional and sub-regional human rights instruments:
> The International Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights (ICCPR)
> The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
> Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
> The Convention against Torture and other forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
> The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
> The Optional Protocol to the Convention of the right so of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography
> The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
> The Protocol to the African Charter on the
Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol)