Posted by AFP on
Swaziland's absolute monarch King Mswati III has ordered an end to a five-year no-sex rite for teenage girls, who had to pledge chastity and wear woollen "do not touch me" tassels in a bid to halt the spread of Aids.
MBABANE - Swaziland's absolute monarch King Mswati III has ordered an end to a five-year no-sex rite for teenage girls, who had to pledge chastity and wear woollen "do not touch me" tassels in a bid to halt the spread of Aids.
Swaziland's maidens will forsake their tassels and the "umchwasho" chastity pledge on August 22, ahead of the annual reed dance ceremony where the king is expected to choose yet another new bride, state-run Radio Swaziland has said.
"I have it in command from his majesty to order all the national flowers (maidens) to converge on Ludzidzini (royal palace) on Sunday so that they can drop the woollen tassels on Monday," said a spokeswoman for the Swaziland's maidens, Nkhonto Dlamini.
"The woollen tassels will be burnt to mark the end of the ritual introduced by the monarch in 2001," she said in a message repeatedly aired by the radio station.
Introduced by Mswati in September that year, the rite was aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/Aids in a country with the world's highest infection rate, where close to 40% of adults live with the disease.
Breaching the chastity vow before marriage was punishable and any person who violated a maiden was fined one cow, or around 1,300 emalangeni ($200).
But the practice had been attacked by social workers who said it was ineffective.
Mswati himself breached the ban and was fined a cow for picking a teenage girl as his ninth wife.
Parents of young Swazi men said they were also glad to see the end of umchwasho, which they said left them impoverished as they had to help their sons pay for their transgressions.
The annual reed dance, where bare-breasted maidens perform before the king, will start on August 28 and last for two days.
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