progress and challenges for women’s rights in eswatini
Eswatini has made significant strides towards improving women’s rights and gender equality in recent years. One of the most remarkable legislations passed in Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, was the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act in 2018.
This landmark legislation marked a crucial step forward in addressing gender-based violence and empowering Eswatinian women. The Act not only criminalized various forms of sexual offenses, but also established support mechanisms for survivors, including counseling and legal assistance; it represented a significant shift in the legal landscape, offering women greater protection and avenues for justice.
There have been notable improvements in addressing gender inequality in the southern African country. Increased awareness campaigns and community programs have helped break the silence surrounding issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault. Women’s participation in politics and decision-making has also seen some progress. More women are entering leadership roles in various sectors, including government, business, and civil society. This increased representation contributes to a more inclusive and diverse governance structure in the country.
But women continue to be under represented in leadership and decision-making positions in public and private sectors. According to Human Rights Watch, Eswatini has yet to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which provides, among other things, for the protection of women from harmful practices. Eswatini has a dual legal system, whereby the common law, based on Roman Dutch law, operates side by side with unwritten customary laws under which women are treated as dependents of their fathers, husbands, and traditional chiefs.
Despite the advancements, Eswatinian women continue to face significant challenges in their pursuit of gender equality. One of the major obstacles is the persistence of harmful cultural norms and practices that perpetuate discrimination and violence against women. Gender stereotypes and traditional roles often limit women’s opportunities for education, employment, and leadership positions.
Access to quality education and healthcare remains uneven, particularly in rural areas. This hampers women’s economic empowerment and limits their ability to break free from cycles of poverty. Additionally, economic disparities exacerbate the vulnerability of women to various forms of exploitation and abuse.
To continue on the positive path for women’s rights, Eswatini needs to focus on a comprehensive approach that involves legislative reforms, education campaigns, and economic empowerment initiatives. Addressing deep-rooted cultural norms requires sustained efforts to change attitudes and behaviors.