Political Group Questions Effectiveness of Swaziland Chastity Rite in Preventing HIV/AIDS
Jabulane Matsebula, a spokesperson for the Peoples United Democratic Movement of Swaziland, on Friday questioned the effectiveness of King Mswati III's reinstatement of the "Umcwasho" chastity rite as a means of HIV/AIDS prevention, the Panafrican News Agency reports (Panafrican News Agency, 10/8). Mswati in September 2001 announced the resurrection of the event to "preserve virginity among girls and combat AIDS" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17/01). Men are barred from having sex with women who have undergone the rite and could be fined or "ostracized as morally deviant" for violating the prohibition. However, the rite does nothing to prevent men from having sex with women who have not undergone it, Matsebula said, adding, "Thus, even if Umcwasho is scrupulously observed, it can at best result in behavior change for only a section of the Swazi population and for a period of time." Matsebula said that effective HIV/AIDS prevention "requires behavior change over a longer term in a larger proportion of the population and usually involves a wider attitudinal range" (Panafrican News Agency, 10/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.