Gender-based violence is a major social and health problem in the country as data and recent cases of women killed by their partners only help to scratch the surface of a far deep seated problem.

Data collated by the Kingdom´s police showed that 11,081 cases of gender-based violence were reported in 2018 alone.

According to a recent study, published five months ago by the University of Cambridge Press, women in the country were victims in 72.6% or 8,043 cases of those cases.

Physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence, mainly affecting women, children and persons with disabilities, are the leading forms of gender-based violence in the country, the study found.

The eSwatini Violence Against Children Survey of 2007 reported that nearly one in three girls experienced sexual and emotional violence during childhood; approximately one in four females experienced physical violence.

The data further revealed that boyfriends and husbands were the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence. The physical chastisement of wives and other female intimate partners is also prevalent. Women are often beaten based on husbands’ suspicions of infidelity and for failing to demonstrate deference to the husband.

Until 2021, no shelters, sanctuaries or refuges for women fleeing male-perpetrated abuse existed. Women victims who seek refuge in their natal homes are stalked; when found, they are harassed and, in some instances, killed.

Incidentally, eSwatini opened its first and second shelters for victims of domestic violence in July and September 2021 with the assistance of the United States Center for Disease Control (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study identified a woman’s decision to terminate the relationship was identified as one of the major reason for intimate partner femicide–suicides. Research shows that many male partners in intimate partner femicide–suicides stalked their estranged partners.

Women groups marching against GBV

When they located them, they harassed, assaulted, raped and killed them out of revenge or to prevent them from consorting with other men.

Then, they took their own lives shortly after the femicide as often is the case in the country. Some analysts posit that male proprietary attitudes and behaviour are associated with a cultural and individual mindset that perceives women in intimate relationships as the property of husbands and non-marital male partners.

The men in these situations felt emasculated and aggrieved when “his woman”, translated as “his property”, displayed the audacity to leave or contemplate leaving him.

The lethal violence in these cases is fuelled by an “abandonment rage” that some men feel is justified. Male partners’ refusal to accept the victims’ decision to abrogate the relationship was the leading cause of marital femicide–suicide, accounting for 12 (28.6%) of the 42 cases according to the study authored by Mensah Adinkrah.

The research by Adinkrah shows that femicidal attackers killed 17 (40.5%) current or estranged wives, 18 (42.9%) current girlfriends or lovers and seven (17.9%) ex-girlfriends or lovers. The study showed that the duration of the relationship appeared to have no impact on femicide–suicide.

In one examined case the victim and the assailant had been married for 20 years.

In another case the assailant and the victim had been in a relationship for only four months, and the unmarried couple in Case 24 had been together for 10 years.

In these cases, the assailants stalked the victims, typically finding them taking refuge in their natal home, then lethally assaulted them, killing them by stabbing, axing, shooting or setting their homes alight.