The BBC News website has an interesting story on the ending of the Swaziland sex ban for teenage girls that began in 2001, supposedly to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To show your chastity, you had to wear these long woolen tassels, which is all well and good, but does that really prove you haven't had sex? According to the article, it doesn't seem that many of the girls wore the tassels anyway, except in the villages where chiefs upheld the ban.
Yet, the king broke his own ban when he married a teenage girl shortly after imposing the sex-ban, and to make up for it, he fined himself a cow. I'm sure one cow really hurt his estate. This king has 11 wives and two fiancees, and he thinks banning sex amongst teenage girls is going to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS?
The ban is ending one year early, I guess too many people were put out by not being able to have sex (and/or apparently marry) these girls, including the girls themselves, who have not been happy with the ban. They are having a ceremonial burning of the tassels on Tuesday.
Now, I realize this culture is different. I realize a teenage girl in this country is prime marriage material. But really, does a ban like this really help what seems to be a serious problem for this nation? According to the article, 40% of the population of Swaziland is infected with HIV/AIDS, among the highest in the world. Why not educate the population? Why not teach safe sex practices? Why not take greater steps to decrease the threat of HIV/AIDS in the country, rather than just a ban that most people didn't seem to honor?
It is almost as if by banning sex, the king thought he could just brush the matter aside, and it would fix everything. His thought process must have gone something like "well, if having sex with these girls is the problem, why don't we just ban sex with them?". Nevermind the freedoms and desires of these women. I'm surprised he didn't send them all to a prison colony.
I really hope that nations like Swaziland are able to take the right steps to combat their HIV/AIDS problems. Thanks to the U.N. and other organizations, the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa is getting lots of attention. Let's just hope it helps.