Jump to content

Prostitution in Eswatini

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prostitution in Eswatini is illegal,[1] the anti-prostitution laws dating back to 1889,[2] when the country Eswatini was a protectorate of South Africa. Law enforcement is inconsistent, particularly near industrial sites and military bases.[1] Police tend to turn a blind eye to prostitution in clubs.[3] There are periodic clamp-downs by the police.[4][5]

Senator Thuli Mswane[6] and NGOs Eswatini AIDS Support Organisation (SASO), Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and Mpumalanga Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have recommended that prostitution be legalised in Eswatini, in order to allow it to be regulated to reduce harm to the prostitutes and limit the spread of HIV.[7]

Sex trafficking,[8] child prostitution[9] and HIV[10] are problems in the country.


It was estimated that there were around 4,000 sex workers in the country in 2015,[11] with the highest concentrations in Matsapha, Manzini, Malkerns and Ezulwini.[12] Most sex workers are Mozambican or Swazi.[13] It is reported that sex workers are subject to abuse and forced sex by police.[14] Some prostitutes occasionally travel to other countries, especially Maputo in Mozambique, to work on a temporary basis.[14] Many women and children turn to prostitution because of poverty.[15]

After European settlement, westernisation, the development of urban centres and migrant labour, especially in the mining areas, saw a rise in prostitution.[16][17] Sex tourism by South Africans occurred in the 1970s, not only further increasing the demand for prostitution, but instigating a move by the sex workers from the mining areas to urban hotels.[16] Eswatini was more liberal than South Africa and had no apartheid laws.[18][19]

In 2001, sex workers in Manzini started to offer clients sexual services on credit.[3]

During a 2007 survey, sex workers said their clients included business people, church pastors, Government officials (MPs, cabinet ministers), lawyers, lecturers, police officers, soldiers, foreigners, tourists, doctors and truck drivers.[14]


HIV/AIDS in Eswatini was first reported in 1986 but has since reached epidemic proportions due in large part to cultural beliefs which discourage safe-sex practices. Coupled with a high rate of co-infection with tuberculosis, life expectancy has halved in the first decade of the millennium. Eswatini has the highest prevalence of HIV as percentage of population 19–49 in the world as of 2016 (27.2%).[10]

Sex workers are a high risk group and HIV prevalence was estimated at 60.5% in 2014.[20] Many clients are reluctant to use condoms and will pay more for unprotected sex.[17]

Sex trafficking[edit]

Eswatini is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking. Swazi girls, particularly orphans, are subjected to sex trafficking, primarily in Eswatini and South Africa. Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into prostitution in Eswatini, or transport them through Eswatini to South Africa. Some Swazi women are forced into prostitution in South Africa and Mozambique after voluntarily migrating in search of work. Reports indicate a downturn in the textile industry following loss of eligibility under the African Growth and Opportunity Act in 2015 has led textile workers to follow promises of employment in neighbouring countries, potentially increasing their vulnerability to trafficking.[8]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Eswatini as a "Tier 2 Watch List" country.[8]


  1. ^ a b "The Legal Status of Prostitution by Country". ChartsBin. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Swaziland Crimes Act-61 of 1889" (PDF). Organisation of South African Law Libraries. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Swaziland-prostitutes: Swazi prostitutes offer credit to 'esteemed customers'". Agence France-Presse. 27 August 2001. Archived from the original on 25 April 2003. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  4. ^ Dlamini, Jabulisa (7 August 2017). "Day, night raids on Manzini sex workers". Times Of Swaziland. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  5. ^ Malinga, Lindelwa (10 August 2017). "Cops swoop on Mbabane, Lobamba sex workers". Times Of Swaziland. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  6. ^ "SWAZILAND: Controversy Over Calls To Legalise Sex Work". CABSA. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Swaziland Told To Legalise Prostitution, Gay Marriage". African Eye News Service, Swaziland. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "Swaziland 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 14 January 2018.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ Chawane, Nomvula (23 October 2015). "Under-age prostitution rife in the city | Mpumalanga News". Mpumalanga News. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Swaziland 2017 Country factsheet". UNAIDS. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Sex workers: Population size estimate - Number, 2016". www.aidsinfoonline.org. UNAIDS. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  12. ^ Shaw, Cassandra (3 November 2014). "The four sex hot spots". Times Of Swaziland. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  13. ^ Swaziland. State.gov (8 March 2006). Retrieved on 2011-04-02.
  14. ^ a b c Swaziland Government. Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (2007). "Situational analysis on commercial sex work in Swaziland". National HIV and AIDS Information and Training Centre. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Risky business: report sheds new light on sex trade". IRIN. 14 December 2007. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  16. ^ a b Harrison, D (1994). "Tourism and prostitution: sleeping with enemy? The case of Swaziland". University of Sussex. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  17. ^ a b Sheldon, Kathleen (2005). Historical dictionary of women in Sub-Saharian Africa. Lanham (Maryland): Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810853317.
  18. ^ Timothy, Dallen J. (2012). Tourism and political boundaries. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415510561.
  19. ^ "Swaziland - Ethical Travel Guide". Ethical Travel Guide. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  20. ^ "HIV prevalence amongst sex workers". www.aidsinfoonline.org. UNAIDS. 2016. Archived from the original on 22 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.