Mswati III has abandoned an unpopular
HIV-prevention campaign that urges girls in the country to
remain virgins, The Independent reports. The
campaign was launched in 2001 and urged unmarried
girls to adopt an ancient tradition called
umcwasho—or badge of the virgin—and
remain virgins for five years. The girls participating
in the campaign wore traditional tassels to signify
their virginity. If men attempted to have sex with
them, they were required to throw the tassels at the man's
family's home, at which point his family would be required
to pay a fine of one cow to the girl's family.
Mswati’s announcement that the campaign was ending,
thousands of young women removed their tassels at a
ceremony at the royal compound in Ludzidzini and will
burn the tassels at another ceremony later this week.
A new report
shows that 29% of the teenagers in Swaziland are
HIV-positive. The study, conducted by the nation’s
health ministry, also shows that more than 40% of all
adults in the nation are HIV-positive. When
HIV-positive children are included in the tally, about
480,000 of the nation’s 1 million population
are believed to be infected with HIV.