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Swazi princess dons chastity tassel
BBC News Dec 17, 2001
chastely, a LINK Girls are expected to take a five-year celibacy vow By Bhekie Matsebula in Swaziland
Princess Sikhanyiso, the eldest daughter of King Mswati III of Swaziland, has returned home from her studies in England wearing a set of umcwasho tassels, worn by young girls as a mark of chastity.
Under ancient Swazi tradition girls under 18 were expected to wear a set of blue and yellow tassels, while older girls wore red and black tassels as a sign that they were still virgins.
In September King Mswati, Africa's last absolute monarch, announced the tradition was being reintroduced in an effort to combat Aids, which has killed more than 50,000 people in the tiny mountain kingdom.
But the move has met with huge opposition - not least of all because the king's own daughter has not been forced to comply with the rule.
Princess Sikhanyiso, who is studying at St Edmunds College in England, took everybody by surprise when she arrived at Matsapha Airport on Saturday with a pair of yellow and blue tassels around her neck.
The 14-year-old princess, who was accompanied by her grandfather, Reverend Percy Mngomezulu, Swaziland's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, has returned home for the Christmas break.
The princess has come under fire from young Swazi girls because she is being educated in Britain and therefore is not bound by the strict rules of her own country.
King Mswati's draconian rule demands that all virgins must wear the tassels and remain chaste for a period of five years. They are discouraged from any physical contact with men - even shaking hands.
Many young women and their parents believe the five-year period is too long.
Their anger has been fuelled further by the fact that Princess Sikhanyiso has not been required to wear the tassels whilst at school in England.
There were rumours that she was whisked abroad so she would not have to comply with the decree and there were even allegations that she was not a virgin, as all maidens who don the tassels are required to pass a virginity test.
However, the princess now says that she is in full support of the rite and that she respects it even when in living London.
"The school would not allow me to wear it (the tassels) on its premises because they feared it would draw unnecessary attention and so I only wear it on weekends when I am at home," she said.
"Even I was told to wear umcwasho on the day that everyone was told. I am very proud of the tradition and what it stood for, so I would like to encourage young maidens to take up the woollen tassels," she added.
But up to now most girls still refuse to wear the tassels despite stern warnings of fines to be imposed on their parents by the traditional authorities in the kingdom.
Those who do wear them only do so when they are at school, but when they leave school premises they simply remove them.
Adding to the controversy is the fact that King Mswati was the first to break his own rule when he picked a 17-year-old schoolgirl, Nontsetselelo Magongo, to become his eighth wife.
In protest at the double standard last month young women from the Mahlanya area where Nontsetselelo comes from went to throw their tassels at one of King Mswati's palaces.
Anyone who breaks the decree must pay a fine of one cow or 1,300 emalangeni ($108) and the king was forced to pay the fee of one ox himself following the angry protests.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 18, 2001
King Mswati, I applaud your noble intentions. There are many manipulators of young women these days. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.
-- (Hillary Clinton @ Chappaqua.NOT), December 18, 2001.
[b]as all maidens who don the tassels are required to pass a virginity test.[/b]
Ya know, they finally invent a job that I'm qualified for and it hasta be halfway around the world. There's no justice I tell ya!!!
-- Jimmy Splinters (email@example.com), December 18, 2001.
"Adding to the controversy is the fact that King Mswati was the first to break his own rule when he picked a 17-year-old schoolgirl, Nontsetselelo Magongo, to become his eighth wife."
-- Pammy (eight@wives.?), December 18, 2001.
Even the divine right politicians have their flaws, Pammy.
-- Jack Booted Thug (governmentconspiracy@NWO.com), December 18, 2001.