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Swaziland: Call for More Women in Parliament

(Mar. 21, 2014) A prominent human rights activist has called on the parliament of Swaziland to live up to the constitutional requirement for participation of women in the legislature. Doo Aphane, a Swazi lawyer and Director of Women for Women Development Consultancy, said that women have a right and an obligation to participate fully in the Houses of Parliament. Several women’s groups are expected to bring a petition on the issue to Parliament within the week. (Sandile Nkambule, Official Calls for Full Participation of Women in Swazi Parliament, SWAZI OBSERVER ONLINE (Mar. 15, 2014).)

The Constitution of Swaziland calls for at least 30% of the members of the legislature to be women, and if that goal is not reached, the legislature reforms itself as an electoral college to elect up to four women, on a regional basis, to serve as legislators. (Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act, 2005, art. 86, University of Swaziland website.)

According to Aphane, the constitutional provisions have not been upheld. Only one of the 55 elected Members of Parliament is a woman. She said that “[o]ur dignity should be restored as there is a clear provision in the constitution about women participation [sic] in Parliament, a constitution that was accepted and presented to us by the King.” (Nkambule, supra.) The Swazi Prime Minister has argued, however, that before women could be selected to serve in the legislature, in accordance with the constitutional provision, legislation would have to be put in place. (Id.)