Swaziland: Women's representation quotas

Updated December 2009

The Constitution of Swaziland (2005) contains extensive measures to protect and advance women. Article 20. prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender and permits Parliament to pass laws that are "necessary for implementing policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational or other imbalances in society". Article 28. enshrines the right of women "to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities" and protects women from being compelled to "undergo or uphold any custom to which she is in conscience opposed". Article 59.(5) obliges the State to afford equality of economic opportunity to all and takes steps to ensure the full economic integration of women. Article 60.(4) provides that the State must ensure that gender balance must be attained in all bodies, constitutional or otherwise.

Given these general provisions, it is not surprising that the representation of women in political structures is specifically addressed. The Constitution (2005, Article 84) lays down the principle that the people of the Kingdom have the right to be heard and represented through freely chosen representatives, but says also "Without derogating from the generality of the foregoing subsection, the women of Swaziland and other marginalized groups have a right to equitable representation in Parliament and other public structures". In accordance with this, special measures are taken to ensure the representation of women in both houses of Parliament.

As far as the Senate is concerned, half the 10 members elected by the House of Assembly must be women, while at least eight of the 20 members appointed by the King must be women (Constitution 2005, Article 94). Thus at least 50% of the indirectly elected Senators and 43% of all Senators must be women.

The provisions for the House of Assembly are complex (Constitution 2005, Article 95). There are no quotas for the 55 members that are directly elected through the Tinkhundla system (for an explanation of the system see Karume 2003, Swaziland's Electoral Process IN EISA Election Update 2003: Swaziland [PDF document], 21; Article 95(1)(a)). Half of the 10 members nominated by the King must be women (Article 95(1)(b), (2)(a)). Should women form less than 30% of the members of Parliament then an additional four women, one each from each of country's regions, are indirectly elected by the House of Assembly from a list of between 12 and 20 candidates compiled by thee Chair of the Elections and Boundaries Commission (Article 86, 95(1)(c), (3)).

Since political parties are not permitted in Swaziland (see Political Parties, the advancement of women's representation through voluntary quotas has not been possible. In the previous election held in 2003 only 9 of the 55 elected members of the House of Assembly (16.4%) were women (see Women's representation in the House of Assembly). This, however, was a great improvement on the 2 of 55 (3.6%) produced in the 1998 election. In 2008 only seven women won seats in the House of Assembly, but with the four indirectly elected members the number of the elected women in the House of Assembly would be 11 of 59 members, or 18.6%. However, in December 2009, more than a year after the 2008 elections, the regional elections for the four additional women members had still not been conducted (Magagula 2009).


CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF SWAZILAND 2005, [www] http://aceproject.org/ regions-en/eisa/SZ/CONSTITUTION%20OF%20THE%20KINGDOM%20OF% 20SWAZILAND%202005.pdf [opens new window] (accessed 8 Mar 2010).

MAGAGULA, M 2009 "No space for four more women in parliament", Times of Swaziland, 6 December, [www] http://www.times.co.sz/index.php?news=12690 [opens new window] (accessed 9 Dec 2009).