Gender and women's health
This analytical profile on gender and women’s health is structured as follows:
Swaziland has shown encouraging signs of commitment to addressing gender equality. Momentous strides have been made in the inclusion of an equality clause in the National Constitution 2005 and ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2004. The ratio of girls to boys in primary education has remained almost constant, averaging 0.93 since, highlighting that there are more boys enrolled in primary school than girls. It should be noted though that, there are more girls of school-going age than boys.
On the other hand, secondary education statistics show that there are slightly more girls enrolled than boys, with a ratio that is greater than one. However, given the population demographics of the country, in which there are more girls of secondary-school age than boys, girls are still disadvantaged at this level. This is due to high incidences of early pregnancy, sexual abuse, poverty and the impact of HIV and AIDS.
In the country approximately 31 per cent of the population is employed, representing 40 per cent of males and 24 per cent females. Most women are found in the informal sector, mainly in micro-enterprises and in the agricultural and food production sector. Participation of women in non-agricultural wage employment remains low.
According to a UNICEF Study on Violence against Children in Swaziland (2007), violence against female children was highly prevalent. Approximately one in three females experienced some form of sexual violence as a child; nearly one in four females experienced physical violence as a child; and approximately three in 10 females experienced emotional abuse as a child. Boyfriends and husbands were the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence.
Male relatives (other than the victims' father) were the most frequent perpetrators of physical violence; and female relatives were the most frequent perpetrators of emotional abuse. Incidences of sexual violence most often occurred in the home, either the home of the respondent or the home of a friend, relative or neighbour. These issues will be addressed through the accelerated adoption of the sexual offenses and domestic violence bill.
Gender-based violence is a major problem in Swaziland where women and girls, as well as orphans and vulnerable children, are marginalized, making them susceptible to HIV/AIDS, incest, abuse and rape. Women are more likely than men to become infected through sexual contact and as primary care givers. Gender disparities exacerbate the problem by reducing a woman's voice and choice in issues such as safe sex negotiation and sexual and reproductive rights.
The recently approved gender policy seeks to address these challenges through a number of strategies proposed under family planning. There are several pieces of legislation that needs reviewing which are limiting the country’s ability to deal with gender disparities, so as to conform to the dictates of the constitution (2005) pertaining gender equality and women empowerment.