Swaziland King Orders Young Women to Obey Five-Year Celibacy to Stem Spread of HIV
King Mswati III of Swaziland has ordered all young women in the country to abstain from sex for the next five years in order to reduce the spread of HIV, the New York Times reports. Young women also are forbidden to wear long pants and are expected to wear traditional tassels, known as umcwasho, to indicate their celibacy. Men who violate the ban and have sex with women wearing tassels, worn in blue and gold by girls and teens and in black and red by young women, will be fined one cow, the country's "true currency." According to Lungile Ndlovu, the royally appointed leader of young women in Swaziland, the new celibacy rule should not be a problem for Swazi women because they "know their culture." But Swazi high school students report that some girls are already having sex and many will refuse to wear the umcwasho, criticizing the "royal edict's infringement on their sense of style" (Cauvin, New York Times, 9/29). Last July, Swazi officials banned girls from wearing miniskirts to school, as the skirts were "widely blamed for enticing teachers" to have sex with students and spreading HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/20/00). Beatrice Dlamini, a nurse who manages the HIV/AIDS program at a government hospital in Mbabane, said that "without more education, reviving traditions would do little" to stop HIV transmission. At least one-quarter of adults in Swaziland, which has a population of 900,000, are HIV-positive, and 20,000 have already died of AIDS-related illnesses (New York Times, 9/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.