Swaziland Women March to Protest Sexual Assault, Oppression of Women That Leads to HIV Spread
October 4, 2004
A group of approximately 1,000 women recently participated in Swaziland's largest-ever march to protest sexual assault and the "traditional subjugation" of women, which is "one reason" why Swaziland has an HIV prevalence of almost 40%, the Washington Post reports (Timberg, Washington Post, 10/4). Swaziland has recorded the world's highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, surpassing nearby Botswana (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/22). After reading about an 18-year-old woman who was sexually assaulted in the Swazi city of Mazini because she was wearing a miniskirt, union advocate Gugu Pungwayo organized a march and successfully lobbied police to make arrests in the case, according to the Post. "We are losing the battle against HIV if we sit and allow this," Pungwayo, who has an 18-year-old daughter, said, adding, "It's not a matter of short skirts." Doo Aphane of the Women's Legal Rights Initiative, who also helped organize the march, said, "We're fed up. Enough is enough. The powers that be have realized that women are angry." However, there has been "backlash" against the protests, according to the Post. A member of the Swazi parliament criticized what some members of the media called the "miniskirt march," according to the Post. "We are tired of this," MP Ernest Dlamini, said, adding, "There should be a law against public indecency, which would ban the wearing of anything that would expose a woman's thighs, her navel and also the wearing of G-strings." Pungwayo said that another protest is scheduled for Saturday and her group is preparing civil lawsuits against the attackers (Washington Post, 10/4).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.