Swaziland
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BREAK CYCLE OF POVERTY AND DEPENDENCE

Sir,

We have a serious problem as females in this country. Young and old are victims of sexual abuse and harassment and too many people have come to accept it because they believe they are powerless. They live with the trauma and shame. Sadly poverty and deprivation continue and enable more men to take advantage of women because they seemingly acquiescence their actions as mutual exchange. Unfortunately far too many women are disadvantaged from the onset due to lack of basic needs and as a result they are exploited by opportunistic men who initiate younger girls to sexual activities. Of course many men will deny that they ever participated in such predatory crimes, but statistics say otherwise. Some of these men claim to be family men of good standing and are religious.

Damaged

This is all a ruse, as you scratch the surface. Girls who experience these atrocities become damaged as adults and are unable to make connections between normal and exploitative relationships; so they become properties to be used and discarded. Of course, there are many men who do not see any harm in this but none of them would wish this to happen on their own daughters. Weak sanctions against perpetrators have been identified as being contributing factors. Two thirds of girls in Eswatini have encountered sexual harassment or violence many times over. So the less privileged the woman is, the more likelihood of sexual harassment. They say the number is far higher than reported because this crime is mostly under reported simply because it has become commonplace and no one takes it seriously. In most cases the woman is blamed as the instigator.

Sensitive

Seemingly the police are ill-equipped to deal with such sensitive issues and to make matters worse, such cases fail to make it to the courts. But if by some fluke they do, a lenient sentence that does not fit the crime is pronounced. Our society and government have not taken this epidemic seriously, yet this crime rests heavily on society. It affects people mentally, physically and financially. It is no exaggeration but a fact. Eswatini women dearly deserve a shift and a reduction of the damming and high rate statistics of sexual violence and assaults. Government should provide opportunities for women and girls. A compulsory education or training for women to break the cycle of poverty and dependence, in particular to help and support women gain independence and confidence, is needed. Men who harass women should be investigated and removed from society if found guilty. If a woman experiences any form of sexual harassment, it is not your fault, speak to somebody you know and trust about your experience.

Protect

Do not keep it a secret to protect perpetrators. Your life matters and you are stronger than you think and you will survive this. No one deserves your silence to deal with your pain, while they continue to commit the same crime over and over again. Being polite does not mean you have to be subservient and no one should make you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t give consent, then the person is abusing or harassing you. That is not acceptable. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your guts. If you feel uncomfortable, make an excuse and leave. Be emotionally strong and know yourself. Proper men stand up for women; not what we see lately in this country.