Human Rights in Swaziland

Swaziland is home to Africa's last absolute monarch and the continent's longest running state of emergency. It has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. Two thirds of the population live below the poverty line. ACTSA calls on the international community to do more to support human rights in Swaziland and urge its government to live up to its international commitments.

Take Action: Join us at our CHOGM Protest on the 19th April

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our protest in support of human rights in Swaziland at CHOGM. The Commonwealth continuously fails to hold the Swazi authorities to account and it is time action is taken!

The Background

What is the political/governance situation?

Political parties are in effect banned; the largest opposition party, the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), is proscribed under anti-terrorism legislation. People are not allowed to stand for parliament as a candidate for a political party. Civil society activists endure harassment, repression, including, in some cases, detention and physical violence. Many of the candidates for parliament are in effective selected through a traditional system by tribal chiefs who owe allegiance to the King. Two thirds of the upper house is appointed by the King. Parliament and judiciary are subservient to the monarchy. Swaziland has been ranked as the least free country in Southern Africa by the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

What are the socio-economic impacts of the King’s rule?

The King and other members of the royal family lead lavish lifestyles while almost two-thirds of Swazis live below the poverty line. A 2017 study named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in terms of income distribution. The country has the world’s highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS and endures frequent food security crises. A significant part of the population seek work in South Africa and remittances are an important part of the economy.

What is the situation for women and girls?

Women and girls in Swaziland are treated as second class citizens. Customary laws classify women as minors in important areas. Women and girls are more vulnerable to poverty, illiteracy and HIV/AIDS. Gender-based violence is widespread and the government chooses not to pass and implement laws to protect women and girls.

What are we doing?

Working with a range of civil society organisations in Swaziland, we highlight the persistent abuses of human rights and democratic norms to decision makers in the UK, European Union, Commonwealth and US, and encourage them to respond meaningfully.  We have taken a variety of actions, including: protesting outside the Swaziland High Commission, lobbying UK government ministers and senior Commonwealth officials, organising petitions and producing briefing papers.

What's next for ACTSA?

ACTSA is working with our partners and allies to try and ensure the Commonwealth Summit in the in the UK in April 2018 discusses the situation in Swaziland. We are calling for the Commonwealth to refer Swaziland to a Ministerial Action Group to investigate Swaziland’s human rights and its compliance or otherwise with the Commonwealth Charter.

We need to increase awareness of the situation in Swaziland. International attention tends to focus on larger countries that are seen as of more “strategic” interest. ACTSA has published a general briefing paper on Swaziland and a specific one on women’s rights there. These are available to download from Related Documents below.

If you are interested in inviting a speaker from ACTSA to a meeting or event to talk about the situation in Swaziland please Contact Us.