In Swaziland, the gaps are deep between rich and poor. More than two out of three residents live below the national poverty line. Around 40 percent of the population is estimated to live in extreme poverty, which means that they do not have access to life’s emergency. Swaziland is also one of the countries in the world that has been hit hardest by the HIV / AIDS epidemic.
Poverty is most prevalent in rural areas. There, people usually live in self-catering, and malnutrition – sometimes also starvation – quickly spreads when the crops fail. Then hundreds of thousands of people can stand without food. According to the UN agency FAO, over a third of Swazis were malnourished a few years into the 2010s.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Swaziland, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
Swaziland has a higher proportion of people infected with HIV than any other country in the world. As a result, life expectancy is one of the lowest. More than a quarter of the population aged 15-49 is HIV-infected. Although reports from shows that the rate of spread has begun to decline, the AIDS epidemic still poses the greatest threats to public health and the country’s economy. Tens of thousands of children have lost their parents to the disease. AIDS patients fill the majority of the country’s hospital beds, and a large proportion of the unemployed are out of work due to AIDS-related problems. Due to labor shortages in agriculture, AIDS contributes to the recurring food shortage in the country.
The Swazi regime has long been criticized for not taking the threat of HIV / AIDS seriously. However, in 2004 the authorities declared that the epidemic constituted a national disaster and three years later a nationwide strategy for combating the spread of infection was presented. The HIV / AIDS epidemic is now being fought with, among other things, free brake medication, although far from all infected people are being treated. The slowdown of the spread rate is also due to more resources for combating AIDS, better treatment methods and increased international assistance.
The authorities stated in 2017 that the number of new cases of HIV infection had almost halved since 2011. The success was attributed to the increased use of brake medication. Four-quarters of all HIV-infected people were reported to have access to these.
Swaziland’s healthcare is poorly developed given that the country has a relatively high income level (see Financial overview). In the wake of the HIV / AIDS epidemic, other diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are also increasing.
Swazi society is highly socially stratified in a complicated clan system and with an aristocracy with great influence over the community. Most Swazis live in rural areas and small villages. They usually live in a small collection of farmhouses (umuti) together with several other households. Each individual household (indlu) consists of a husband, a wife and their children. Sometimes there are several wives in a household.
Most children go to school between 8 and 13. Almost all children go to school. After the end of the school day, many children help their family with housework, livestock care or cultivation. A popular leisure pleasure is football. The ball is usually homemade, made of rubber bands or yarn. Toys are usually made of things to be thrown away, such as tins, corn cobs or metal wire.
The situation of women
Swaziland is a male-dominated society and traditional practices discriminate against women. Through constitutional changes in 2006, women’s rights were strengthened. She then got the right to own property, land and businesses. A woman was also given the opportunity to refuse to follow the tradition of marrying her brother-in-law if her husband dies. According to the Constitution, a widow is also entitled to a fair share of the inheritance.
However, it is uncertain what the constitutional additions will have in practice. Several national laws need to be amended to comply with the Constitution. Only in 2010 did some married women get the right to register property under the law. In addition, the old customs are firmly rooted in the conservative rural community.
The tradition that a widow is not allowed to appear in public for a period of time (at least one month, and sometimes up to three years) after the death of her husband excludes many women from voting in elections. Polygamy is prohibited but is still common.
Many girls are abused by male relatives, but in recent years several cases have been brought to trial and the perpetrators have been sentenced to prison. Prostitution, trafficking in women and children and child and forced marriage occur. Every year, beauty pageants are held, where young girls show up to the king, who has the right to choose one of them for his wife. In 2014, King Mswati III had 18 wives.
The situation for gays
Homosexuality between men is prohibited and the law provides no protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Generally, low tolerance towards sexual minorities prevails. In the summer of 2018, a pride parade was held in the capital for the first time in history.
Clashes between police and opposition
Pudemo blocks border crossings to South Africa in protest against political parties not being allowed to run in elections (in Swaziland only personal elections are held). South African police shoot at protesters, but no deaths are reported. The violent clashes are getting attention in the outside world.
Opposition members are arrested
The police seize several members of the democracy-friendly opposition movement Pudemo. The arrested are accused of being behind a series of explosions in 2005. Relatives of the democracy activists are also arrested.