31 CULTURE The most significant challenge to the ratification process of

31 culture the most significant challenge to the

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3.1 CULTURE The most significant challenge to the ratification process of multilateral conventions in Swaziland is the perception amongst, the people in general and legislators in particular, that international agreements are intrinsically against Swazi culture and identity. Identity, in Swaziland, is inextricably tied up with the royal system; and multilateral treaties are seen as being against that system, rather than accepting of it and making it more accountable. International treaties are also perceived a threat to the domestic status quo because they challenge the fundamental patriarchal nature of Swazi society. An example of a conflict which appears to pit conventions against culture is found in customary notions of child discipline. Most Swazi’s believe that children should be beaten for disciplinary reasons while conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child frown upon physical punishment. Traditionalists’ are very powerful in Swaziland and they constitute a large majority in parliament; most of them view 27
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multilateral agreements with scepticism and as a threat. For instance, traditionalists in Swaziland claim that free speech (protected in the constitution) creates chaos and rifts in the community by undermining indigenous rights, the royal system and group cohesion. This is underpinned by the belief that it is disrespectful to question the leadership especially since leadership rests in the hands of traditional chiefs, elders and royalty. Furthermore conservatives in Swaziland regard multilateral agreement as yet another example of Western hegemony with the West imposing its value system on Swaziland. This state of affairs results in a low number of international instruments being ratified in parliament. It should be noted that it is not un-coincidental that those who use cultural arguments to prohibit the advancement of international norms via international conventions are often those who benefit most from the system, such as the political and traditional elite, who rely on culture remaining static and unaccountable. This seems to be the case in Swaziland. 28
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3.2 POLITICAL FACTORS There is also some resistance to ratification from Swaziland because some legislators are of the view that a few powerful developed countries demand that smaller, less powerful countries such as Swaziland ratify treaties, but which they themselves disingenuously refrain from doing so. For example the Kyoto protocol on climate change and was ratified by Swaziland but not ratified by a superpower like the United States of America. Additionally, existence of unfavourable political factors in Swaziland also contributes adversely to the ratification process in Swaziland. For instance, the ban of political parties, as a consequence of the 1973 royal decree, impinges on the ratification process. This is because political parties are organised groups whose primary role is to sensitize the nation on political issues which have a direct impact on people’s lives; multilateral instruments are inherently political in nature and
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