From Sunday to Tuesday I was down and out with a stomach upset. In between lying in bed groaning and making many many trips to the bathroom, I was reading a book about the African nation formerly known as Swaziland, renamed Eswatini a few years ago.
Now, I do not wish to get into a political discussion on here but due to some current events a lot of Americans right now are very concerned about political officials’ corruption and abuse of power. But I’m here to remind you that there are parts of the world where things can be a lot worse, and there’s a missing persons element to the story as well.
Twentyish years ago, an 18-year-old Swazi high school student didn’t return home from school one day. She’d been about to take her A levels (the university entrance/placement exams in the British education system; Eswatini is a former British colony) and planned to go to university and eventually become a lawyer. But then she was gone.
It turned out the king had decided he had a liking to her, and wanted to marry her. His way of proposing was to have some of his palace guards (goons) kidnap the girl off the street, force her into a vehicle and drive her to the royal compound.
Days passed before her family found out where she was and what had happened.
The girl’s mother (a single parent, dad had died) was extremely upset by this, as you might imagine, especially because her daughter was a minor (21 is the age of majority there) and the king had acted without consent from either mother or daughter. She actually went to the courts to try to get her child back, but the case didn’t go anywhere, because in Swaziland/Eswatini the king’s word is law. He’s an absolute monarch.
The kidnapping did not come out of nowhere. The king had previously expressed his interest in the girl, who did NOT want to marry this lout and be condemned to a life of (as the book I was reading put it) “luxurious tedium”. She and her mom contemplated leaving the country to avoid something like what wound up happening, but decided to stay after finding out that, per Swazi tradition, the king cannot marry a woman who’s a twin. This girl was a twin; she had a twin brother. So she thought: Whew, I’m safe.
Well, it turns out Swazi tradition is whatever the king says it is. And if he decides Swazi tradition will make an exception in this case, it will. Hence, the abduction and forced marriage. The eighteen-year-old Swazi girl became his tenth wife, all her career and education dreams gone.
I want to emphasize that this occurred in like 2001 or 2002. The same century in which we live now. It sounds straight-up medieval.
As bad as things have gotten here with corruption and abuses of power… I can walk safe in the street knowing no U.S. president will ever have his goons kidnap me and force me into marriage, and no U.S. court would ever let the president do it if he tried.