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Today is Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Off with Your Trousers, Leader Orders Women

[MBABANE, Swaziland] - Women in Swaziland's royal capital said they dare not wear trousers after a top official warned them Sunday that they would be torn off by soldiers.

"If any of us dare wear pants the soldiers will strip us naked," Lobamba resident Mary Dlamini, 22, said after listening to headman Jim Gama address local people at a special meeting.

Speaking to Reuters in the small African kingdom?s administrative capital Mbabane, one Lobamba resident quoted Gamaas saying: "Soldiers from the army will patrol for offenders.

"They have been instructed to strip the trousers from women in pants, and tear them to pieces."

A former radio talk show host, Gama said trousers were disrespectful to Swaziland's social traditions -- but he acknowledged that younger princesses in the extensive royal family were among the worst culprits.

He is the senior official in the royal household at Lobamba of King Mswati, absolute monarch of a million people living in the mountains between South Africa and Mozambique.

Human rights activists have accused Swaziland's authorities of oppressing women. Last year, they tried to ban sex for unmarried girls and revive other traditional rules on chastity but dropped their plans after an international outcry.

"The dictates about what women can and cannot wear is medieval but unfortunately reflects the fact that women are legal minors in Swaziland," said Doo Apane, an attorney with the Swaziland branch of Women in Law in Southern Africa.

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